Honestly, when I received the 2021 album Native Sons of a band called Los Lobos, I thought about a funny coincidence. This cannot be the the same band which made the Ritchie Valens’ track La Bamba famous in 1987, can they? In fact: yes, they are! And in Native Sons, they praise the musical diversity and variety of their home town with a series of cover songs of very different genres. Here is my review of how the La Bamba boys sound thirty-three years later, in their 30th July 2021 release.
Los Lobos – About The Artists
The roots of Los Lobos are already back in 1973, when two founding members, David Hidalgo and Louie Perez met at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. They experimented with different sounds, even jazz, before they formed the first Los Lobos line-up with Frank Gonzales, Cesar Rosas and Conrad Lozano. Amazingly, Hidalgo, Perez, Rosas and Lozano are still in the band. The only “new” member is Steve Berlin, who is the keyboarder of the band since 1984, when the band released their second album How Will the Wolf Survive? That album made it to the Top 50 in the USA and Top 80 in the United Kingdom, just like the following one, By The Light of the Moon. In June 1987 (just six months after the third album), they released the major part (eight out of twelve songs) of the soundtrack to the movie La Bamba. The title track was a great success and turned the soundtrack to a very good sale.
Thereafter, the sales of Los Lobos were rather moderate. They however regularly release new music. Depending on which publications you in fact count as studio albums, Native Sons is already the seventeenth album by the Californian band.
Los Lobos – Native Sons – Track by Track
The 13 song album lasts 49 minutes. The digital version of the album splits the tracks Bluebird and For What It’s Worth and thus has fourteen tracks.
1. Love Special Delivery
A touch of surfing sound and a lot of classic tunes: the album starts with Love Special Delivery, which has been a 1966 single by the band Thee Midniters. The genre of this sound is called Chinano – the Los Lobos version comes with a lot of positive energy. Good starter.
The album stays in the 1960’s – Misery was a success for Barrett Strong in 1961. The Los Lobos version feels very modern, but still keeps the blues and soul touch of the original. Nice one.
3. Bluebird / For What It’s Worth
This track (which is split into two tracks in the digital version, see above) features two songs written Steven Stills for his famous band Buffalo Springfield. In the press kit, Louie Perez states We knew we wanted to do a Buffalo Springfield song, and ended up with two because we couldn’t decide! Wise decision. Needless to mention that these two one in a combined cover version sum up to 6:40 minutes.
4. Los Chucos Suaves
The fourth track is another Chicano song. This one has much more Cuban touch to me. Los Lobos do this song in Spanish (like the original) and keep the inspiring groove. A Lalo Guerrero song, which has originally been released in 1949.
5. Jamaica Say You Will
Moving from the energetic Los Chucos Suaves to the slow groove of the folk / country rock works of Jackson Browne in this song feels like a major break in Native Sons. Jamaica Say You Will is a beautiful listen in the original and in this version.
6. Never No More
Blues time in track #6: Never No More nicely adopts the traditional sound of the Percy Mayfield original. The Los Lobos version comes with a lot of speed and drive. Good listen.
7. Native Son
The title track of the album is no cover version, but in fact an original written by David Hidalgo and Louis Perez. The song comes with a nice blues groove and a wide instrumental sound. Very nice listen.
8. Farmer John
Famrer John, I’m in love with your daughter. The song was originally a garage rock track by Don Harris and Dewey Terry in 1959. However, the song became popular some five years later, when the track has been released by The Premiers. Los Lobos are rather close to the original. Steve Berlin states about this song, This is one of the first songs I think I played with the guys, way back in the pre-historic age, and it’s a fun one to play. Shout out to East L.A. Good one!
After the powerful and funny Farmer John, the Spanish slow track Dichoso feels very melancholic. The 2021 recording is a nice one, which is especially working well on the rhythmic side.
10. Sail On Sailor
You have waited for these guys, haven’t you? The tenth song of the album is a 1973 classic originally performed by The Beach Boys. Cool sound.
11. The World Is A Ghetto
This song is a 1972 recording by the band WAR. The Los Lobos version even features the original vocalist Little Willie G. The instrumental intro takes over one minute – no need to hurry as the full song takes more than eight minutes. Thus, this epic one is definitely one of the dramatic highlights of Native Sons.
12. Flat Top Joint
This track is pure Rock’n’Roll, a 1980’s song by Dave Alvin for his band, the Blasters. Steve Berlin states the close relation between the two acts: There might have been a Los Lobos without the Blasters, but we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today. The 2021 recording tributes this connection nicely.
13. Where Lovers Go
The album closes with a 4:32 minute instrumental, which is another reference to the Chicano music. Nice way for the band to present their instrumental talents as well. Great way to finish Native Sons.
Los Lobos – Native Sons – Spotify
Here is the album on Spotify:
Los Lobos – Native Sons – My View
Okay, I give in – these guys are much more than a song which has been boosted in Germany by orange juice advertisement. If that statement really needs a proof, go for these 50 minutes of excellent music and listen to Los Lobos Native Sons. I feel there is nothing more I need to add about this versatile, entertaining album.
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