Good Morning AztlŠn
The Music Box's #2 album for 2002
First Appeared at The Music Box, July 2002, Volume 9, #7
Written by John Metzger
John Leckie is one the most acclaimed producers and engineers on the British pop music scene, having worked on albums by Radiohead, XTC, and the Stone Roses. His latest endeavor finds him guiding Los Lobos on the groupís eleventh studio outing Good Morning AztlŠn. And what a job he does. Despite consistently crafting outstanding songs, Los Lobos has struggled, at times, to capture its magic in the studio. As good as Kiko was, it missed much of the bandís fiery fury. The groupís last outing This Time made some strides in this direction, merging concise rock ínĎ roll songs with dense sonic exploration to yield an underappreciated and quite exquisite album. But Good Morning AztlŠn easily blows away everything Los Lobos has ever recorded. Thatís not to reduce the significance of the bandís prior outings; it just happens to be how good this new release is.
At first glance, Good Morning AztlŠn is a straightforward album of rock, soul, and Latin grooves. And if thatís all you want it to be, itís sure to satisfy. From the blistering blues of Done Gone Blue to the Sam Cooke soul of What in the World to the glam-meets-garage rock assault of the title track, thereís much to enjoy. As with everything Leckie lays his hands on, however, thereís even more lying just beneath the surface. Not that Good Morning AztlŠn sounds anywhere near as cluttered as some of Los Lobosí previous efforts. Instead, Leckieís touch leaves the band with a crisp, clean sonic sheen, giving the album the perfect balance between the groupís live and studio sounds. Just listen to two of the discís best tracks Hearts of Stone and The Word for perfect examples as to how these worlds meet. On the former, the slinky R&B swing is immersed in a sea of guitar, percussion, and the radiant backing vocals of Quetzalís Martha Gonzales. Yet, the way the guitars wrap around one another and mesh with the percussion carries the ambience of many of the bandís live sets. Likewise, on the Marvin Gaye-inspired The Word ó a song that no doubt grew out of Los Lobosí obvious love for Whatís Going On? ó wisps of acoustic guitar blend with percussion to lap at the edges of the song, even as Steve Berlin unleashes a stirring saxophone solo.
And thatís the beauty of Good Morning AztlŠn. From its fusion of styles to its free-flowing spirit wrapped in a carefully textured studio sheen, it works on many levels. Thatís the sign of a great album, and after listening to Good Morning AztlŠn, one gets the feeling that though theyíve been together for 29 years, the members of Los Lobos are just getting started.
Of Further Interest...
Good Morning AztlŠn is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box