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Los Lobos
THE RIDE
(Hollywood/Mammoth)

Itís great when bands experiment, especially when theyíre 30-year veterans like Los Lobos. But experiments donít always work, and The Ride, despite its sweeping ambition and an exceptional guest list that includes Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Dave Alvin, Bobby Womack, Richard Thompson, and Mavis Staples, is uneven. From another group, it might sound like a full-grown identity crisis, as it rockets among pop songs, clichéíd blues, Mexican-flavored rock, singer-songwriter fare, and funky soul. This last yields the discís best track, a medley of "Wicked Rain," from Los Lobosí 1992 Kiko (Slash), and Womackís own "Across 110th Street" pumped by the R&B legendís soulful vocal turn. Costello is in his boring crooner mode for a perplexing redo of "Matter of Time," which Los Lobos nailed on 1984ís How Will the Wolf Survive? (Slash), and Waits is a noisy, wailing cipher in the mix on "Kitate," a disposable sound collage. The band sound most like themselves on "La Vengaza de Los Pelados," with great guitar tones and a rhythmic attack, courtesy of the members of Café Tacuba, to match that of the Buena Vista Social Club. Thompsonís needlepoint six-string and distinct, clipped vocal phrasing pack "Wreck of the Carlos Rey" with terse melodrama, and Staplesís warm honey-and-grits church singing gives the spiritual "Someday" real wings. But this Ride crashes more often than it flies, even if Los Lobos deserve credit for taking some leaps.

(Los Lobos play this Friday, June 18, at the Paradise, 967 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston; call 617-562-8800.)

BY TED DROZDOWSKI


Issue Date: June 18 - 24, 2004
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