In the early '60s, before a stretch in prison put his career on pause and he found success as a country artist after regaining his freedom, Freddy Fender was a Spanish-singing rock & roll sensation throughout Texas and Mexico, and the Interpreta el Rock album captures the sound of Fender (still trading sometimes as Baldemar Huerta) ripping it up on a dozen originals and covers. Since Arhoolie's 2003 reissue of the album doesn't include any songwriting credits, sometimes it's a bit hard to tell which is which -- "Vamos a Bailar" sure sounds like Ray Charles's "What'd I Say," and "Bailando el Rock & Roll" is a dead ringer for "Rip It Up" by Little Richard, but since the lyrics don't exactly match up, who can say for sure? ("Si Si Rider" and "Corina-Corina" are, as you would imagine, a lot easier to suss out.) Whatever the proper songwriting credits may be, this set -- originally released with this track listing and artwork by the border label Ideal in the early '60 -- sounds stronger and more confident than the concurrently reissued Eddie con los Shades album; Fender's guitar work is still flinty and minimal, but has gained some welcome muscle and precision along the way, and the passionate warmth of his vocals fits the more blues-based surroundings of these songs with surprising ease. (His bandmembers, sadly uncredited, also sound significantly stronger here than on the earlier sides.) Beyond fans of the great Fender and the minor tributaries of Latin music, Interpreta el Rock should fascinate anyone who digs late-'50s/early-'60s rock & roll at its stripped-down and honest best; it moves with an easy and confident swing that makes this much more than a novelty release.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming