Los Lobos - Wolf Tracks: The Best of Los Lobos

Los Lobos
Wolf Tracks: The Best of Los Lobos

(Rhino/Warner Bros.)

First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2006, Volume 13, #3

Written by John Metzger


Los Lobos may be the most underappreciated act in America, but its fans have reason to be concerned considering that, for nearly four years, the ensemble has been stuck in a relative holding pattern. Although its most recent studio effort The Ride was, at times, quite brilliant, it also essentially was a hybrid that, despite its new material, imaginatively split the difference between being a career retrospective and a tribute album. Taken on its own, the set was hardly cause for alarm, but given that the group subsequently issued a concert collection (Live at the Fillmore) as well as a greatest hits package (Wolf Tracks: The Best of Los Lobos), it might be time for the band’s following to become a little nervous.

For the record, Wolf Tracks is the third survey of Los Lobos’ output to be released in the past 13 years. Yet, where the prior compilations (Just Another Band from East L.A. and El Cancionero: Mas y Mas) tended to be a tad overstuffed for casual consumption, this newly commissioned compendium weighs in at a slimmer 20 tracks. One certainly can quibble about the omission of a few pivotal moments from the ensemble’s career — most notably its cover of the Grateful Dead’s Bertha, which introduced its music to a whole new audience — but in the end, there’s no disputing Wolf Tracks’ effectiveness. Not only does the set demonstrate the full range of material within Los Lobos’ eclectic arsenal, but by presenting its songs in chronological order, the collection wonderfully highlights the progression of the band’s development.

A distinctive fusion of Mexican folk, Texas-bred blues, and ’50s rock (ŕ la Ritchie Valens) consistently has formed the underpinnings of Los Lobos’ compositions. So widespread are its influences, however, that the group has been able to assemble an array of sonic architectures that have grown increasingly experimental. In shifting from its simplistic early forays to its later, more textured sojourns, Wolf Tracks beautifully illuminates the path that Los Lobos has traversed for more than 30 years, and the addition of the previously unreleased Border Town Girl, which was culled from the sessions for The Neighborhood, is merely the icing on the cake. starstarstarstar

Wolf Tracks: The Best of Los Lobos is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2006 The Music Box