Various Artists

Chicano Power: Latin Rock in the USA 1968-1976

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These two CDs contain 17 tracks by Latin bands throughout the U.S. who fused rock, jazz, and Latin music in the late 1960s and 1970s. The title is a trifle misleading; although Mexican-American bands from Los Angeles and San Francisco are well represented on the set, it also includes Puerto Rican-American artists and groups from New York and Miami. There are also a couple cuts from the Peruvian band Black Sugar, included to illustrate the influence of U.S. Latin rock in Latin America itself. At any rate, it's a great collection of a genre that, other than the hit records by Santana of course, is largely overlooked by mainstream rock history and poorly represented on reissues. It should be noted that the tracks by larger ensembles with several horn players and percussionists can sound rather more like salsa music with a rock influence, rather than the other way around (not that that's a bad thing). Cuts like Black Sugar's "Viajecito," for instance, could fit well on a salsa radio station but for the obvious touches of contemporary rock, usually in the guitar. In "Viajecito," for example, there's a wild "Shaft"-like psychedelic guitar that runs through the entirety of what otherwise is a fairly standard Latin pop-jazz song; Tierra's "Sun God" kicks off with crazy synthesizers reminiscent of those heard on Pink Floyd's "On the Run." The influence of Santana is felt mightily throughout, particularly in the more rock-oriented bands, like Miami's the Antiques, whose "Chauca" is like early Santana with a dash of the Yardbirds, and a real highlight of the collection. The Santana comparisons are not always coincidental: Carlos Santana's brother Jorge Santana played guitar in Malo, and onetime Santana member Coke Escovedo founded Azteca. At its best, this collection, like early Santana, is an intoxicating mix of rock, R&B, psychedelia, jazz, and Latin music; even at its least impressive, it's still pretty enjoyable. Santana themselves are represented by the song that's probably the apex of the whole musical movement, "Soul Sacrifice." The only major complaint one could offer is that 75 minutes of music is spread throughout two discs, and could have been combined onto one CD. As compensation, there's a 40-page booklet with information on the groups and the sociopolitical factors that gave birth to the style.

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