Malo's debut album remains their best and best-known work, primarily for the inclusion of the hit single "Suavecito." That track managed to make a Chicago-like pop-soul song sound hip with its smooth integration of Latin rhythms and irresistible "la la la" chorus. However, it represented just one facet of a band who, despite some expected similarities to Santana, played some of the most exciting and exuberant fusions of rock, soul, and Latin music. The six extended tracks (all clocking in at over six minutes apiece) leaned more heavily on hot Latin jazz brass than Santana did, though Jorge Santana himself generated plenty of friction with his burning electric guitar. It's not an exaggeration to state that by the time this came out in 1972, Malo's Latin rock blend sounded fresher than Santana's, if only because they sound hungrier and less formulaic than Santana did by that point. The Santana comparisons are unavoidable, though in this case it's to Malo's credit, as they too boasted a deft balance of improvisatory instrumental passages, solid multi-layered percussive rhythms, and emotional, romantic singing in both Spanish and English. The album has been reissued on CD as one of the discs in Rhino Handmade's Celebracion box set, with the addition of five bonus tracks, though those are merely edited single versions of songs on the LP.
by Richie Unterberger