Los Straitjackets

Rock en Español, Vol. 1

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Nashville-based instrumental rock combo Los Straitjackets have been proving for years that rock & roll is a truly universal language by doing away with vocals, but for this album the masked guitar manglers have decided to focus on a more specific tongue -- namely Spanish. For Rock en Español, Vol. 1, Los Straitjackets have recruited three talented friends to perform a set of rock & roll classics in Spanish -- Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, Big Sandy of retro-country kings Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, and Little Willie G., lead singer with legendary East L.A. soul-rockers Thee Midnighters. While most folks will be familiar with these tunes in their English-language originals, many of the versions that appear on this album were taken from Spanish rewrites recorded by in the '60s by Mexican teen groups such as Los Teen Tops, Los Locos del Ritmo and Los Rebeldes del Rock. Sometimes things change a little bit in translation, as "Hang On Sloopy" gets turned into a lover's plea to a gal named Lupe, "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" is transformed into "El Microscopico Bikini" (speaking of another universal language), and "Wild Thing" becomes "Loco Te Patina el Coso." While this all might sound like a goof to some folks, Los Straitjackets play these tunes with their usual mixture of chops, fire and effortless swing (and guitarists Eddie Angel and Danny Amis are in great form on these sessions), while their special guests really deliver the goods. The tough but supple voice Cesar Rosas has been putting to such great use with Los Lobos over the years gets another worthy platform here (he also produced the album), while Big Sandy (who cut a great album of classic Low Rider R&B in 1998 called Dedicated to You) gets to show off the passionate range of his voice on "De Dia y de Nocha" (aka the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night") and "Dame Una Seña" (aka Brenton Woods' "Gimmie Little Sign"), and Little Willie G. steals the show with a heart-tugging version of Arthur Alexander's "Ana." And Los Straitjackets do throw in one token instrumental, a cookin' cover of Thee Midnighters' "Whittier Boulevard." Rock en Español, Vol. 1 is a fine tribute to some of the less commonly explored aspects of rock & roll's Latin roots, and it's great stuff for either listening or dancing.

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