Song performed by Los Lobos
Written by David Hidalgo and Louis Perez
I cannot think of another Eighties rock group that started out with such an amazing string of recordings as Los Lobos. (They continue to produce amazing music, but those first albums touched my life.) I had heard about the EP, …And A Time To Dance, and even managed to hear some of it on the radio. As a side note, I can only say that radio stations were different in those days. Then, I bought How Will The Wolf Survive, their first full-length album and played it over and over again until, well, now. Don’t Worry Baby is one of the great opening tracks that gets your heart moving from the get-go while giving notice that the band knows where music has been and can help it move into the future. Multiple lead singers, ever-changing instrumentation, masterful arranging, and style-hopping to keep the ears engaged made them seem like the second-coming of the English invasion of the sixties, only updated to the times- sort of like what Prince was doing in his world. Of course, they presaged no such thing. Being Los Lobos then or now is not easy.
Back to the music- Will the Wolf Survive?, the final track on the album, was the perfect stunner to close out the proceedings. Before that, the ballads and dance tunes and rockers merely declared that these guys had a future.
By The Light Of The Moon was not as adored by the critics, as its predecessor had been named album of the year by many. Listening to it then and now, I have to wonder what they were missing. Set Me Free (Rosa Lee), Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes, and One Time One Night are great. All right, the first album was a mind blower, and this was simply grand.
Now might be the time to mention that Los Lobos also put on fantastic concerts. They are surely in the running for the greatest band ever to grace the planet. Outside or inside, they demand that you dance, polka and corrida, before they kick out the jams. If you’re lucky, they might even cover some Neil Young for you.
After the second album, Los Lobos appeared on the La Bamba soundtrack, which seems to be what most people recall. They followed that with La Pistola y El Corazon which covered more traditional songs with folk arrangements. The next album was The Neighborhood. While all the others before it remain on my playlist, The Neighborhood is simply indispensable to me- yes, this is one of my desert island discs. Deep Dark Hole has probably saved my life. Emily is arguably the greatest song for driving home. They brought in John Hiatt (never a mistake) for Down on the Riverbed. Not to shortchange the rest of the songs because the only thing that they do is remind why art and music allows me to be a human being.
So, here’s the other thing that I think about sometimes. I was this incredibly pale-skinned kid in southern Ohio that found so much wisdom and peace and beauty in the work of these older Chicano guys from Southern California. How else does that happen except through brilliant, open-hearted art and mass media?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 275 more to go.
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