"Malo was pretty much a jam," reflects Malo bandleader Jorge Santana (younger brother to Carlos Santana) in the notes to Latin Bugaloo. "Just a lot of natural energy. But it had to be structured into an arrangement."
Latin Bugaloo compiles the A-and B-sides of six Malo singles released during the band's 1970s golden age, plus two sides ("Pana" and "Just Say Goodbye") released as a single only in Turkey for reasons not even Santana remembers. Because the original albums versions of these songs often ran around ten minutes ("pretty much a jam"), these edited single versions sound almost new. "Malo has something that set it apart from established groups like El Chicano," Santana continues. "We had Latin percussion and we had a horn section."
And they had "Suavecito," the breakout hit single from their debut album, often called "the Chicano national anthem," and written by the band's timbale player (Richard Bean) as a poem to a girl in his high school algebra class. Equal parts War's "Summer" and the Young Rascals' "Groovin,'" and featuring Coke Escovedo (percussion), Luis Gasca (trumpet), and a chunky Chicano backbeat, "Suavecito" radiates all the wonder of youthful love like heat from a blacktop roof and sounds almost impossibly sweet in July's hot summer sunshine.
B-side "Nena" churns out a Latin-rock raveup full of blasting horns and busted open by trombone, trumpet and electric guitar solos, a frantic and spirited unbridled romp like a pony still learning its own strength, reach and grasp.
Written by legendary Cuban pianist and sometimes Malo member Francisco Aguabella, "Merengue" also rockets out of the gate, with acoustic and electric piano horsewhipping the band into a torrid pace as they twist and shout to the glories of this passionate dance. Santana's electric guitar solo in the break is as wiry and electric as a bolt of lightning, erupting against the percussionists' pounding thunder. (Wheels within wheels: "Merenge" was the B-side to the folkish blues "I Don't Know," which was written by guitarist Clarence "Sonny" Henry, better known for his composition "Evil Ways.")
"Café" sounds very much like Jorge's older brother's hit "Supernatural," flowing with soul and clattering with percussive timbales. (Malo wasn't much for ballads.)
"We were simply young," Santana wistfully recalls. "Too young for understanding the blessings that we had all received: Having an album out, having the opportunity to play among each other as a band, and to tour."
"It was quite a ride."
Suavecito; Nena; Cafe; Peace; Just Say Goodbye; Pana; I’m For Real; Oye Mamá; Latin Bugaloo; Midnight Thoughts; I Don’t
Know; Merengue; Love Will Survive; Think About Love.
Bill Atwood: trumpet; Richard Bean: timbales, vocals; George Bermudez: congas; Forrest Buchtel: trumpet; Hadley
Caliman: flute, baritone sax, tenor sax; Ron Demasi: clarinet, clavinet, flugelhorn, mellotron, organ, electric piano,
synthesizer, trumpet, vibraphone, vocals; Carlos Federico: vocals; Mike Fugate: trumpet; Arcelio Garcia, Jr.: percussion,
vocals; Luis Gasca: trumpet; Mike Heathman: trombone; Richard Kermode: organ, percussion, piano, electric piano; Nick
Mendez: bongos, timbales; Roy Murray: horns; Tom Poole: trumpet; Bobby Ramirez: drums; Raul Rekow: congas; Alex
Rodriguez: trumpet; Leo Rosales: bongos, congas, drums, percussion, timbales, vocals; Jorge Santana: acoustic guitar,
electric guitar, percussion, violin; Steve Sherard: trombone, vocals; Tony Smith: drums, vocals; Richard Spremich: drums;
Pablo Tellez: acoustic bass, electric bass, guitar, percussion, timbales, vocals; John Watson: vocals; Willie G.: vocals; Abel
Zarate: guitar, vocals.