OUR WEEKLY SPOTLIGHT ON GREAT ALBUMS PONDERS
A RESONANT JEWEL FROM A DECADE LIGHT ON THEM
Fired up by a phenomenal performance at The Fillmore last night (full review coming soon), we turn to one of the high water marks in the long career of Los Lobos. Despite their assertion of being "just another band from East L.A.," they are nothing short of an American rock classic in the broad spectrum sense, pulling chunks from R&B, vintage rock, electric jazz, traditional Mexican music, honky tonk country, Fania Records funk and experimental pop so good it'd bring a smile to even crusty old Brian Eno's face. It's a freaky mélange that comes across way more friendly that the list of ingredients implies, and never more spoonful-of-goodness tasty than 1992's Kiko.
The warped skip of opener "Dream In Blue" immediately ushers us into a different space than any of the group's previous five studio albums. There's a warm haze over the entire song cycle that's the audio equivalent of the between time feeling one experiences on the edge of sleep and being fully awake. Even at it's rowdiest (predictably the wonderful '50s flavored Cesar Rosas cuts), there's a dreamy quality to Kiko. Fueled by real world memories filtered through a strange engine, the album hums with longing of many sorts, sometimes turning upwards (the prancing "Saint Behind The Glass") or deeply inward ("When The Circus Comes," perhaps Hidalgo's most heartbreaking recorded performance ever). The friskiness of their playing and production – ably aided by longtime partners in crime engineer Tchad Blake and producer Mitchell Froom - is positively juicy. In every way Kiko was a giant creative leap forward and helped firmly etch out Los Lobos' identity as a band, which is a far cry from the "La Bamba" group many take them for.
Kiko set the template for most of the group's future studio releases, even spilling over into cult fave side project, Latin Playboys. The album showcases the band's enormous range and capacity for feelings within unorthodox settings. You can twist n' shout to it, but perhaps not always in the ways you think you might. In the intervening 16 years it's lost none of its winning pecularities or power to stir a tear. For the uninitiated, this is a serious treat waiting to be unwrapped. For veteran fans of "The Wolves," this is one you need to revisit. Now. We'll wait while you put it on. Ahh, that's better, isn't it?
Track List for Kiko:
1. Dream In Blue
2. Wake Up Dolores
3. Angels With Dirty Faces
4. That Train Don't Stop Here" (Cesar Rosas, Leroy Preston)
5. Kiko And The Lavender Moon
6. Saint Behind The Glass
7. Reva's House
8. When The Circus Comes
9. Arizona Skies
10. Short Side Of Nothing
11. Two Janes
12. Wicked Rain" (Cesar Rosas)
13. Whiskey Trail
14. Just A Man
16. Rio De Tenampa
All songs written by David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez except where noted.
Here's a phenomenal live-in-the-studio version of "Kiko And The Lavender Moon" from one of the greatest radio programs on the planet, Holland's 2 Meter Sessies.
"Dream In Blue" retains all its off-kilter charm in the live setting, captured here in 1992.