- 03 Aug 21
Una De Las Mejores Bandas Del Mundo
Los Lobos are a great band and if they’ve made a bad record, then I have yet to hear it. They’ve been on the go since 1973, had the big hit in the 1980s, and really hit their stride in the early 90s with The Neighborhood - Robert Plant would later cover the brilliant ‘Angel Dance’ – and their masterpiece, the experimental triumph Kiko. If you’re unfamiliar with it, do yourself a large favour and go buy it.
At their new record company’s prompting, they’ve decided to make a covers record before moving on to whatever they do next. This isn’t the first time they’ve taken this route, that big hit was a Ritchie Valens cover for a start, and they recorded a covers EP to accompany 2004’s The Ride, offering great rejigs of songs by the likes of Tom Waits, Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello. The twist with Native Sons is that all the songs are by acts associated with their home town, Los Angeles.
The result is akin to stumbling across the best bar band in the world cutting loose on a weekday night somewhere on Santa Monica Boulevard. The horn blast of ‘Love Special Delivery’ – originally by Thee Midniters, one of the first Chicano bands to break through into the mainstream - has a bass line that seems to be wired directly into your feet and could make a dance floor of a particularly sombre funeral procession for a start, and the versions of ‘Farmer John’ by The Premieres – familiar to anyone who has the good sense to own a copy of Nuggets – and The Blasters’ ‘Flat Top Joint’ would result in similar boogie outbreaks.
‘Misery’ by Barrett Strong - a song writer good enough to be covered by both The Beatles and The Stones – sounds like it was written with Los Lobos in mind, the guitar break ringing out those lonesome, can’t get no lovin’ blues, and there’s some particularly nice guitar wrangling on the masterly run at War’s ‘The World Is A Ghetto’ too.
Laurel Canyon is also part of Los Angeles, so both Buffalo Springfield and Jackson Browne get the nod, with a marvellous medley of ‘Bluebird’ and ‘For What it’s Worth’ where the band show off their considerable chops, and a breezy and gentle ‘Jamaica Say You Will’. It’s hard to think of Californian music without thinking of The Beach Boys, so ‘Sail On, Sailor’ gets wheeled out. Nothing wrong with it either, but ‘Los Chucos Suaves’ by “the father of Chicano music”, Lalo Guerrero, and Percy Mayfield’s ‘Never No More’ jump out of the speakers and will have you spinning.
The title track is the only original Los Lobos song here, a mid-tempo soul paean to their city and the fact that it stands up so well in such exalted company only goes to prove what I said at the start, they really are one of the City Of Angels’ great gifts to the world.