I hadn't purchased a Los Lobos LP in many years, primarily because there weren't many to be had. Like most bands in the 1990s and beyond, America's finest rock 'n roll band from East L.A. put out their new music primarily as CDs. A couple years ago Los Lobos put out a fine new album which, for numerous reasons (pending move, new turntable, etc.) I never picked up on the re-ascendant format of vinyl long-playing records, thinking I'd be able to find it again easily at some point.
I blinked and it disappeared from the racks at many stores. Three years later I finally came across a copy for a reasonable $20 given its 180-gram status.
I'm glad I got it. Tracks like "Yo Canto" really shine on the LP, with the vinyl version delivering a much more enjoyable, rounder-sounding, more realistic sounding bass, crisp highs without being harsh and very natural cymbal decay at the end of the song. Its a much more enjoyable listening experience than my old CD version.
Sure, CD sounds pretty good on the title track (and its fine for the car), but the LP has a more full bodied feel that grows when you raise the volume. There are some great sounding drums on this track and you'll feel loads of amplifier tones on (likely) David Hidalgo's sizzling lead guitar solos.
"Jupiter on the Moon" is a bluesy scorcher capturing the great live sound of a great live band playing together live in the studio (whether it was actually recorded that way or just mixed to sound that way, I'm not sure.... but it sure sounds sweet!). "Do The Murray" is a modern update on a classic old blues, with a swingy-swagger this side of Ray Charles' "What'd I'd Say."
There is a nice sense of air and space around the music on this recording and that comes through nicely on the LP version.
My only nit is that the thick 180-gram vinyl, while perfectly centered, is a tad noisy. Fortunately, you only notice this between the tracks as the music itself jumps off the grooves and out of your speakers quite wonderfully. I'm hoping this will go away after multiple plays; I've heard some people say that a record should be played five or more times (or something like that) before being considered "broken in." This is a topic for further exploration in the future, no doubt...
"All My Bridges Burning," which opens side two suffers ever so slightly due to this face of the disc being pressed just a hair off center and those nice long acoustic guitar chords waver just a tad. This is however made up for by the fact that the guitars sound bigger and fuller on the LP than the CD, so its a tradeoff. I'll be listening to the LP version more than the CD, I can assure you that much. Its not that big a deal really even for me.
The album's one cover tune is a slinky, sexy version of The Grateful Dead's late period blues gem "West LA Fadeaway." Los Lobos are one of those bands who do justice to the tune and pretty much make it their own; it never was one of my favorite Dead recordings on the studio version (from 1987's In The Dark) so it is really nice to hear the song come alive. I'm sure Jerry Garcia is up in rock 'n roll heaven smiling down whenever he hears this loving version of one of his later period gems.
Anyhow, Los Lobos is a great band and if you aren't familiar with their music, Tin Can Trust is as good as any place to start listening to them. If you are a vinyl fan getting into Los Lobos, you can find a number of their early albums on Warner Brothers and Slash Records -- By The Light Of The Moon, How Will The Wolf Survive, etc. -- commonly in the bins at many used record stores and online. I have even found a LP pressing of their great 1990 release The Neighborhood. I'm still hoping, however, for a sweet LP pressing of their seminal 1992 breakthrough Kiko and the Lavendar Moon. Or if they can't do that perhaps they remix the studio version into a 5.1 surround Blu-ray release like they did for the 20th anniversary live recreation performance release. Yes, Kiko in 5.1 would be pretty amazing too, come to think of it.
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. www.ingdom.com Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written: www.dialthemusical.com.