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This Time

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: This Time

Artist: Los Lobos
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: July 1999

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

The 90's have been an interesting time for Los Lobos. While there are certainly other examples(e.g. Neil Young), it's unusual for veteran performers to be experimenting and so clearly trying to find a comfortable sound. The results were amazing on 1992's Kiko, a brilliant, challenging record with many styles but consistently high quality. Their followup, Colossal Head, was also ambitious but was not as enjoyable a listen and had the sense that the band was showing off how cool and quirky they were. That showy eccentricity has also sometimes plagued the work of Latin Playboys, a side project of some of the band's members. Happily, there's nothing forced or pretentious about Los Lobos' new CD, This Time. It's just a great, smooth record with a lot of great grooves. Perhaps Los Lobos has been affected by the time they've spent in summer festivals with former members of the Grateful Dead. This Time has a loose, relaxed feel throughout. The tone is set right from the start with the title track. This Time is about taking things slow and appreciating the moment.

The music, with Steve Berlin's cool sax, matches the lyrics with an easy, unrushed feel. Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake create a good, textured feel but, unlike some of the previous work they've produced for the band, the sound never seems flashy or gimmicky. Once again David Hidalgo shows himself to be an amazing singer. His smooth, pure vocals on This Time, while perhaps not as soulful, deserve comparison to Marvin Gaye's easy work on his 70's classics. The band's quality has often dropped off on the songs of Cesar Rosas, the band's other vocalist. Rosas is not as technically strong as Hidalgo but his deep, hipster vocals fit well with the record's cool, late night feel. Oh Yeah, with evocative percussion and Berlin's moody horn is a dreamy, jazzy ride. On the other hand, sometimes Hidalgo's singing can sometimes be a little too clean. It benefits from getting a little mussed up on Viking. Hidalgo's singing is filtered as he sings of a tough local legend. Hidalgo lets loose an appropriately harsh guitar solo. While most of This Time is smooth jams, it also does rock out. High Places is a great, edgy down and dirty rocker. Hidalgo lets loose as he sings of the advantages and troubles of success. The band, which had a brief taste of huge success with their only hit, their remake of La Bamba, seem very aware of the troubles with being in high places. Hidalgo also rips through the raveup Why We Wish and he's very cool on Turn Around, singing about how no matter how good or bad things are, everything can totally change. For a while, drummer Louie Perez has had help in concert as he's looked to rough up the sound with more percussion and has also worked on other instruments. On This Time, drummer Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello's Attractions and percussionist Victor Bisetti keep the groove going nonstop. The mood is consistently cool. I've rarely totally related to the band's Spanish language songs but on This Time they're easy to like. The Spanish songs fit perfectly with the record's simple, fun mood. If you've had a year of high school Spanish, you'll probably understand the simple themes. Rosas' Cumbia Raza is a smooth, lush invitation to dance. Hidalgo's La Playa is an atmospheric evocation of the fun to be had at the beach. Corazon is the lesser of the three Spanish songs. Its love song is pleasant enough but doesn't really go anywhere.

The only downside of This Time is what it doesn't have. There are none of Hidalgo's heartbreaking cries for social justice like Will the Wolf Survive or Is There All There Is? On This Time, Los Lobos just want to have a good, relaxed time and to that end, they are extremely successful.



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