Los Lobos: …And A Time To Dance

Until very recently I thought How Will The Wolf Survive? was Los Lobos’ debut. But there’s this EP as well as another album (Spanish-only?) from 1978 and another from 1976. I’ve seen in a number of places that this is a revered disc. While there are shadows of the mix of traditional Mexican music and bluesy rock and roll that the band would go on to define and then redefine, I find it a fatiguing listen.

Most of these songs are just fine on their own, but together they add up to an assault. There’s very little of the comfortable, sultry groove the band would bring on How Will The Wolf Survive?. Instead, almost all of the songs are done uptempo, with a upbeat-emphasizing snare pushing you along, raising your pulse in unnatural and unpleasant ways. Far from the romantic dance image of the cover, I think of this as the kind of jackrabbit dancing that teenage boys do: all energy, no soul, just the way they f**k.

The highlights are the wonderful cover of Ritchie Valens’ “Come On Let’s Go” and “Why Do You Do,” a rockabilly track that owes just as much to Elvis as Elvis owed to the old blues masters, a nice reveal of how much Elvis did add of his own. There’s also the cheeky lyrics of “How Much Can I Do?” where the narrator proceeds from promising there’s nothing he won’t do to prove his love, including “hanging around those topless bars” (great line) and drinking “that premium T-bird wine”, to lamenting it’s not worth it to spend all his time proving his love and daring her to prove her love is real.

Almost half of the EP is full-hearted, so three clowns seems harsh to me, but it feels right. While there isn’t a song on here I would be unhappy to hear come up on shuffle (maybe the way-too-intense “Walking Song”), supposing I’m in the right mood for it, I don’t think I’ll ever want to listen to this straight through again, even though it is only about 20 minutes long. Maybe if I’m doing a lot of coke in Tijuana….

Rating:
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– “Let’s Say Goodnight,” “Come On Let’s Go,” “Why Do You Do”
– “Walking Song,” “Anselma,” “Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio,” “How Much Can I Do?”
Song Notes: After the jump

  1. Let’s Say Goodnight – Beginning calls to mind “Evangeline” from How Will The Wolf Survive? Feel like they must have known that. Good lyrics here, too. Great intro and Hidalgo’s as always amazing vocals gets this full-hearted.
  2. Walking Song – Very fast upbeat emphasis. Most of the time it’s just too much. Good guit licks, though.
  3. Anselma – in Spanish. Very fast upbeat emphasis. Like a rocksteady or ska thing. Almost same tempo as previous track. Difference here is the snare is loose whereas it’s tight on prior track. Wikipedia credits writing to Cesar Suedan and Guadalupe Trigo.
  4. Come On Let’s Go – Ritchie Valens original. Awesome.
  5. How Much Can I Do? –
  6. Why Do You Do –
  7. Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio – Wikipedia credits to Don Santiago Jimenez
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