Los Lobos was one of America's most distinctive and original bands
of the '80s. They may have had a hit with "La Bamba"
in 1987, yet that cover barely scratches the surface of their
talents. Los Lobos is eclectic in the best sense of the word.
While they draw equally from rock, Tex-Mex, country, folk, R&B,
blues, and traditional Spanish and Mexican music, their music
never sounds forced or self-conscious. Instead, all of their influences
become one graceful, gritty sound. From their very first recordings
their rich musicality was apparent; on nearly every subsequent
record they have found ways to redefine and expand their sound,
without ever straying from the musical traditions that form the
heart and soul of the band.
After releasing an independent EP in the late '70s and an EP
in 1983, Los Lobos delivered their first major-label album, How
Will the Wolf Survive?, in 1984; it received an enormous amount
of critical acclaim, as well as a dedicated following of fans.
In the next four years, they released a marginally successful
attempt to make their wildly eclectic sound palatable for a pop
audience (By the Light of the Moon), a soundtrack of old Ritchie
Valens songs that was a hit (La Bamba), and an album of traditional
Mexican music (La Pistola y el Corazón). The band took
two years off and returned with The Neighborhood in 1990; the
album was a varied and powerful rock & roll record that was
better than anything they had released in six years. Kiko, released
in 1992, brought the band into more experimental territory, without
ever abandoning their graceful songwriting.
The band celebrated their 20-year anniversary with Just Another
Band From East L.A., a modestly titled two-CD set that featured
most of their biggest singles and recognized songs. It also had
rare tracks from their first album, outtakes, and live tracks
that fans had been waiting for. They didn't appear together on
record again until 1995, when they released the children's record
Papa's Dream on Music for Little People Records. They also scored
the film Desperado and contributed tracks to several other soundtracks
and tribute albums.
Their last release for Warner Bros. came in the form of 1996's
Colossal Head, another critically acclaimed album that still failed
to excite the label enough to keep them on the roster. Feeling
dejected, they left one another to concentrate on side projects,
like Soul Disguise, Houndog, and the Latin Playboys. The latter
was the most dedicated project of the bunch, eventually becoming
another regular group for David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez,
on top of their duties for Los Lobos, after previously releasing
an album in the early 90s.
Los Lobos came back together in 1999, when they recorded and
released their debut for Hollywood Records, This Time. Another
Los Angeles-themed gem from the group, it didn't perform up to
the label's liking and they only managed to deliver one more record
for the company, the re-release of 1977's Del Este de Los Angeles.
Rhino/Warner Archives released the Cancionero: Mas y Mas box set
the following year, but despite the career retrospective, they
were still together and came back on Mammoth Records for the Good
Morning Aztlan release in 2002. Two years later, artists such
as Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, and Mavis Staples
joined Los Lobos for The Ride.