By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

May 20, 2004

Los Lobos
"The Ride"
Hollywood/Mammoth Records

Roots rockers Los Lobos released their first album, a collection of traditional Mexican music, in 1978. They titled it "Just Another Band From East L.A." And, of course, they've been anything but.

Fusing Latin beats with rock, soul, country and blues, the core of guitarists David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas, bassist Conrad Lozano and drummer Louie Perez have lasted 30 years by playing it their way. When they had a chance for stardom after their movie soundtrack hit "La Bamba" in 1987, they followed it with "La Pistola y El Corazon," sung entirely in Spanish. On their new CD, "The Ride," Los Lobos celebrates 30 years together by mixing several new tracks with reworkings of older songs, most done with the help of friends and musical forebears. But rather than ending up as a limp duets CD, "The Ride" is cohesive, rewarding and unmistakably Los Lobos.

The remakes include "Matter of Time" (1984), slowed down with a heartfelt lead vocal by Elvis Costello; "Someday" (1989), sung by Mavis Staples and all but dropped into the Stax studios in Memphis, Tenn.; and the inspired fusion of Los Lobos' "Wicked Rain" (1992) with Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street," sung by Womack.

On "Is This All There Is?" (1987), Los Lobos hand the microphone to Little Willie G of the '60s Latin rock band Thee Midnighters, whom Los Lobos listened to growing up.

Of the new songs, the country roots of "Somewhere in Time" pairs guitarist David Hidalgo with fellow LA rocker Dave Alvin; the sea saga "The Wreck of the Carlos Bey" brings on British folk veteran Richard Thompson for a sinewy guitar duel with Hidalgo; and Ruben Blades turns up the heat on "Ya Se Va."

Los Lobos also go it alone, and one of the best of these new songs is "Charmed" - a perfect description for a band, a career and a CD.