A multi-disc, authoritative box set usually arrives toward the end of an artist's career, which is what made the appearance of Los Lobos' four-disc retrospective El Cancionero: Mas y Mas in 2000 a little surprising. They weren't selling as many records, nor were they quite as hip as they were ten years earlier, yet they retained a devoted cult and critical following -- they were still in the prime of their career, not ready to be enshrined. Fortunately, the band and Rhino went ahead and assembled a box, which winds up capturing a band at the height of its powers. The set smartly spends a lot of time on side projects, including the Latin Playboys, Los Super Seven, Houndog, and selections from Cesar Rosas' solo album, plus a healthy number of live songs, B-sides, tribute album tracks, and 11 previously unreleased tracks. These tracks deepen the already rich musical tapestry Los Lobos weaves, and the end result is pretty impressive. As the set winds from the authentic Mexican folk music of 1977 through the gutsy roots rock of 1987 and the dreamy soundscapes of 1992 to the daring music of the mid-'90s and then the consolidation of their strengths on 1999's This Time, it's hard not to be astonished not just by the band's range, but the fact that they do it all really well. This is the definitive portrait of Los Lobos, highlighting everything that they can do and containing almost all of their greatest songs; this is one of the rare times that a four-disc box set summarizes all of an artist's strengths, while telling a great musical story, as well.