LOS LOBOS: Just Another Band from East LA: CD

Back before “La Banba,” before their Grammy nominations, even before their association with Los Angeles’ early ’80s punk scene, Los Lobos were following their own muse. While all the bands in the neighborhood were playing Top 40 and bad disco (which were, more often than not, the same thing), Los Lobos delved deep into their parents’ record collections, gleaning musical gems from the worlds of the son jarocho, son huasteco, guajira, bolero and plena, to name a few. After playing a few weddings and other such gigs for beer and gas money, they pressed and sold 1,000 copies of this, the “yellow album,” in 1977, and since that time, it has become a hot collector’s item among the band’s more avid followers. Listening to this album so many years after its initial release, it seems almost inevitable that the band would eventually gravitate toward Los Angeles’ underground. Although already highly accomplished musicians, there is a very informal, “party” feel to the recording and their approach to the songs themselves seems fueled by much of the same intensity and speed that would give their nortenos that punk edge a few years later. When they take on a jarocho like “Maria Chuchena,” they don’t merely cover it so much as devour it and spit it back out in a rush of flying fingers at tempos that rival the masters of the form, which, anyone who has heard Lino Chavez or some of the other Veracruzano purveyors of the son jarocho can tell you, is some feat. It is no small favor that Hollywood Records has done. By re-releasing this unassuming little gem, they have not only given us a peek at the genesis of one of America’s greatest, most provocative bands, they have also provided another generation of would-be and will-be musicians a new avenue to explore, one that the average American music aficionado has no idea exists. In short, this is essential listening for anyone who claims to have even a passing interest in music.

 –jimmy (Hollywood)