In the 1970s and 1980s, the Mexican-American listening experience could be impressively eclectic. Soul music was huge in Chicano communities, and quite a few Chicanos were also avid rockers. Chicanos on the whole weren't nearly as into salsa as Cubans and Puerto Ricans, and yet, such Mexican-American innovators as Santana, the Escovedo family and El Chicano were more likely to be influenced by salsa and Latin jazz than mariachi and ranchero music. The richness of California's Chicano music scenes of the 1970s and '80s is illustrated by Ay Califas, a diverse collection ranging from Santana's mega-hit interpretation of Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" and El Chicano's haunting jazz-fusion classic "Viva Tirado" to the angry East L.A. punk rock of Los Illegals' "El Lay" and the smooth soul-pop of Sapo's "Can't Make It," Malo's "Suavecito" and Tierra's 1980 remake of the Intruders' "Together." Although War was a predominantly Black soul/funk band, the inclusion of its 1975 hit "Low Rider" is highly appropriate, given that this song is an ode to West Coast "vato loco" culture and how phenomenally popular War was among Chicano audiences. This unpredictable CD is without a dull moment.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson