Los Lobos By the Light of the Moon on Numbered Edition Hybrid SACD from Mobile Fidelity
Mellowed-Out 1987 Album Showcases Band’s Contemplative Side and Virtuosic Musicianship
Los Lobos’ Sophomore LP Established Group as World’s Most Diversified, Capable Ensemble: Soulful Ballads, Roots R&B, Fiery Funk, Spiritual Folk Pepper Phenomenal LP
Los Lobos might have touted
themselves as “just another band from East L.A.,” but it’s quite likely
that even the group’s humble members recognized that few—if any—other
artists in the late 1980s rivaled their soulful music, rousing
performances, and eclectically blended arrangements. While lacking the
commercial status of the quintet’s subsequent La Bamba release, By the Light of the Moon stands
as the band’s most enjoyable excursion into American-hued soul,
penetratingly reflective lyrics, and earnest roots rock. The music
making is simply extraordinary.
Mastered from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s
numbered-edition hybrid SACD brings these 11 songs to life and out
of the clouded, foggy sonic environment in which they’ve remained for
more than two decades. For the first time, T Bone Burnett’s stripped-back production functions as it should. Namely, Los Lobos
sound as if they’re playing at a small, sweaty neighborhood joint late
on a Sunday night for an audience of locals, friends, and family.
The group’s uncanny ability to switch between instruments and
effortlessly play each as if it’s their innate right—listen to the
seamless fashion in which electric and acoustic guitars, marimbas,
organs, saxophones, harmonicas, and percussion create strikingly
memorable soundscapes—comes to light amidst a warmer, airier, more organic and deep-black background. David Hidalgo’s sweet, honeysuckle timbre, he and Cesar Rosas’ overlapping tremolo guitars, and stacks of interwoven rhythms jump with vibrant electricity.
Shifting into storytelling mode, Los Lobos use By the Light of the Moon
as an opportunity to meditate on everyday America and channel the fate
of normal communities. Issues of faith, mortality, love,
disillusionment, and melancholy inform narratives that are on the same
socially conscious level as those of period-era Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp. As for the songs, they crackle, waltz, shuffle, dance, tremble, and kick. The band almost dares listeners not to care.
Whether leaning into twangy two-step country-rock (“One Night In
America”), dual-guitar shootout rockabilly (“Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes”),
swinging jump R&B (“Is This All There Is?”), tequila-spiked East Los
Angeles-style rock (“Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)”), searing Latin-tinged
blues (“My Baby’s Gone”), or poignant gospel-lined folk (“River of
Fools”), Los Lobos’ Tex-Mex gumbo continually impresses and delights.
Don’t pass up one of the best releases of the 1980s and one of Los Lobos’ definitive statements. You’ll never hear a better digital version. Boleros, rancheros, and more await!
Los Lobos By the Light of the Moon Track Listing:
1. One Time One Night – 4:48
2. Shakin' Shakin' Shakes – 4:13
3. Is This All There Is? – 4:00
4. Prenda Del Alma – 3:21
5. All I Wanted To Do Was Dance – 3:57
6. Set Me Free (Rosa Lee) – 3:35
7. The Hardest Time – 3:12
8. My Baby's Gone – 3:41
9. River of Fools – 2:55
10. The Mess We're In – 3:01
11. Tears of God – 3:46