Los Lobos

Wolf Tracks: The Best of Los Lobos

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Ten years after their breakthrough 1983 EP And a Time to Dance, Los Lobos released their first retrospective, the double-disc Just Another Band from East L.A. Seven years after that, the career-spanning four-disc box El Cancionero: Mas y Mas appeared, so there hasn't been a shortage of comprehensive Los Lobos collections. What has been missing is a succinct overview, designed for neophytes and casual fans, and that finally arrives in the form of Warner/Rhino's 2006 set, Wolf Tracks: The Best of Los Lobos. At 20 songs, Wolf Tracks is generous, but with a band with such a long, diverse body of work, there will inevitably be some notable songs missing, and there are: "I Got Loaded," "River of Fools," "Tears of God," "The Neighborhood," and "Angels with Dirty Faces" aren't here, nor is anything from 1996's love-it-or-hate-it art-rock opus, Colossal Head, nor are the charting radio singles "Down on the Riverbed," "Bertha," or "Reva's House." But if you're the kind of listener that feels strongly about these omissions, then Wolf Tracks is not for you -- choose either of the previous comps or stick with the original albums instead. For everybody else, Wolf Tracks is not only a sharp, concise chronicle of a unique American rock & roll band, it's a hell of a lot of fun, too. This hints at the breadth and depth of Los Lobos' music, touching on their corridos while emphasizing their foundation in old-time rock & roll, while hitting all their biggest songs along the way: "Don't Worry Baby," "Will the Wolf Survive?," "One Time One Night," "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes," "Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)," plus the Ritchie Valens' covers "La Bamba" and "Come On, Let's Go." There's enough terrific music here to spark interest in the rest of the band's catalog, but it's satisfying enough as a hits comp to satiate the needs of a casual fan -- a trick that not every hits package can pull off, but that's exactly what Wolf Tracks: The Best of Los Lobos does.

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