Los Lobos: Kiko - 20th Anniversary Edition
The blues blast of "That Train" is followed by "Kiko And The Lavender Moon," a dark cumbia that paints itself in dark muted acoustic and electric tones, sounding nothing like the tune before yet cut clearly from the same cloth.
The entire disc moves through a carefully sculpted musical world but never loses its improvisory edge, the ensemble feeling almost like some Latinized cross between XTC and the Grateful Dead while leaning on Latin and funk rhythms in a way that makes sure we know the Lobos grew up on bands like El Chicano and Malo, whose singles were staples of East LA car radios. Whereas on the previous albums, the band stayed in a more typical roots pocketbreaking stylistic rank generally to go into Mexican folk territoryKiko shows a band that discards no influence. Moreover, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas emerge as a guitar duo and dynamic and original as any since Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine of Television, but with a deeper, blusier base. There is an impossibly high level of invention in the playing throughout this disc
The record's Americana moments are placed throughout almost as stepping stones. Tunes like "Whiskey Trail" and "Peace" prove the group's roots sensibilities were as intact as ever, but they're not the centerpieces they would likely have been on previous Lobos records, nor are these roots by any means exclusively American. The extremely (Mexican) traditional "Saint Behind The Glass" sounds is a harp-driven folk song. And the record's closer, "Rio De Tenampa," intentionally opens with a blast of distorted saxophones that sound like they came off one of those crappy banda records that use synthesizer horns instead of real ones. While the overall impression of this record is otherworldly, Kiko contstantly reminds, "Wherever this music might be going, it comes from this grounded place."
(Kiko's follow-up, 1996's Colossal Head, on Warner Bros., might even be better.)
It's twenty years since this record first hit the streets. Its critical reputation is huge, bordering on hyperbole. Whatever. Los Lobos is now forty years together, and is probably America's Band as much as any band can be. Kiko says why, in unimpeachable musical language.
Tracks: Dream in Blue; Wake Up Dolores; Angels with Dirty Faces; That Train Don't Stop Here; Kiko and the Lavender Moon; Saint Behind the Glass; Reva's House; When the Circus Comes; Arizona Skies; Short Side of Nothing; Two Janes; Wicked Rain; Whiskey Trail; Just a Man; Peace; Rio de Tenampa; Whiskey Trail (studio demo); Rio de Tenampa (studio demo); Peace (live); Arizona Skies/Borinquen Patria Mia (live); Kiko and the Lavendar Moon (live).
Personnel: Steve Berlin: tenor, baritone and soprano saxophone, flute, melodic, harmonica, organ, piano, synthesizer, percussion; David Hidalgo: guitars, accordion, violin, banjo, piano, percussion, vocals; Conrad R. Lozano: Fender 5-string Jazz bass and 4-string Precision bass, Godin fretless bass, guitarrón, background vocals; Louie Perez: drums, vocals, guitars, percussion, couch and phone; Cesar Rosas: electric and acoustic guitars, vocals; Pete Thomas: drums; Victor Bisetti: drums (15, 16), percussion; Fermin Herrera: Veracruz harp (6); Alex Acuña: percussion; Gary Mallaber: drums (2); Mitchell Froom and his House of Keyboards La Chilapeña brass band.