LOS LOBOS: El Cancionero Mas y Mas: Boxed set 4xCD

We all know the story of Los Lobos, don’t we? Band from East LA lands an opening slot for Public Image’s debut Los Angeles gig at the Olympic Auditorium. Outraged punks pelt band with debris. Band signs with punk label and develops a strong local following that includes many of the same punks who hated them at the aforementioned gig. Band later has a fluke number one hit with a cover from a movie soundtrack and eventually becomes one of the most respected bands on the planet. Well, this four‑disc retrospective covers virtually all of Los Lobos’ career, starting with tracks from their 1977 “yellow” album (see other review), and snaking its way through assorted albums, early singles, collaborations with other artists and assorted unreleased tracks, making for a total of 86 tunes in all. While some might view CD sets this large as overkill, in the case of Los Lobos it seems to merely scratch the surface. So varied are the band’s sounds and styles that it often seems that one is listening to a compilation of many bands rather than just one. For example, on just the first disc in this set, the listener is treated to a musical palette consisting of guajiras, boleros, punk‑propelled rockabilly, nortenos, waltzes, blues, country and ballads, to name a few. Over the course of the remaining discs, new sounds are added to the pot: weird hybrids of traditional Mexican rhythms coupled with English lyrics, psychedelia, cumbia Colombiana, swing, soul, art damage, rock’n’roll and beyond. By the end of the ride, it becomes painfully clear why Los Lobos is one of the most respected groups of musicians in music today: they are damn good at what they do. Not only have they consistently produced some of the most exciting music ever to come out of the United States, they have done so over a span of time that has seen literally thousands of lesser bands hit that “Number One” lottery jackpot and quickly fade back into obscurity. They’ve done it on their own terms to boot, which is more than most of the biggie “punk” bands can say for themselves. Sure, there’s some disappointments for the more dedicated fan, such as the glaring omission of their crowd-pleasing renditions of Los Pinguinos del Norte’s “Mexico Americano” and Andres Huesca’s “Canto a Veracruz,” an early single version of “Under the Boardwalk,” tracks from the “Si Se Puede” soundtrack, or any of their early ’80s collaborations with the legendary Lalo Guerrero. Yet what is included almost makes up for such slights: covers of Fats Domino’s “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday,” a reworking of Los Aventureros’ “Panchita” (titled here as “Los Ojos de Pancha”), Little Richard’s “Rip It Up,” and demo versions of some of their originals, not to mention Los Super Seven’s interpretation of Valerio Longoria’s “El Canoero,” which nearly surpasses the original in quality. Sure, CD sets this big can be overkill. In this case, though, the band is more than deserving.

 –jimmy (Rhino)