GUEST REVIEW BY GENTLEMAN JOHN BATTLES
Early Rock 'n' Roll has largely been thought of as a Black and White thing, but, what of the Mexican and Chicano pioneers of said format? They're right here in this exhaustive 37-track collection. You get artists who found fame with English - speaking audiences and others who were popular in their native Mexico and others who, not for lack of talent or ambition, slipped through the cracks. If you like your rockin' hot and wild, you'll get plenty of it here. Freddy Fender checks in with three exciting tracks, "Bailando El Rock and Roll,” "No Seas Cruel" ("Don't Be Cruel"), and "El Rock De La Carcel'' ("Jailhouse Rock"). Chris Montez wails to the Tex-Mex organ sound of "Rockin' Blues,” and Chan Romero belts out his hit, "Hippy Hippy Shake,” and two other doozies, "My Little Ruby " and "I Want Some More.” Richie Valens, the Patron Saint of Chicano Rock 'n' Roll, is represented here by the frantic Guitar Instrumental, "Fast Freight" (an excellent 45 EP of Valens' Instrumentals came out a while back), the Little Richard soundalike, "Ooh! My Head" and the party starter, "Dooby-Dooby-Wah.” Even a young Trini Lopez rocks out on the title track. Tony Casanova, born in Puerto Rico, but based in California, lays down some tuff Rockers with "Showdown" (earlier comped on "Sin Alley"), 'Boogie Woogie Feelin'" and the punk as fuck steamer, "Yeh! Yeh! Come another Day" (“Ye! y! Come another day. You played me dirty, but that's OK. You played me dirty, but that's OK. You played me dirty, but that's just fine, anyway, you look like Frankenstein!"). Two of Mexican Rock 'n' Roll's heaviest hitters, Los Teen Tops and Los Locos Del Ritmo make with the crazed "La Plaga" (“Good Golly Miss Molly”) and "La Chica Alborotada"("Tallahassee Lassie"). Both songs were covered in fine fashion by Big Sandy and Los Straitjackets. Neither song are literal rewrites of the originals ("La Plaga" means "The Plague”) and are delivered so frantically, you'd be forgiven for not recognizing them right off the bat. Los Xochimilcas were amusical and comedy troupe who started in the 40s and played Jump Blues styled Rock alongside traditional Mexican material. "Rock Rollin' Rock" is a frantic accordion and trumpet instrumental that brings to mind Louis Prima. If you need further proof that you can rock out on anaccordion, give a listen to Armando Almendarez's breakneck take on "Maybelline.” Los Gibson Boys do a cool ''Good Rockin' Tonight" as "Rock De La Noche,” which hasn't got Los Teen Tops' insane version beat, but it stands on it's own, as does their reading of "Be-Bop-a-Lula" en Espanol. They also lay down a creepy Instrumental, "El Vampiro.” The legend of the vampire looms heavily over Mexican cinema. A Spanish language version of Dracula was even made at Universal in 1931, concurrent with the Bela Lugosi version. Johnny Amelio and The Downbeats display more of "Ricardito"'s (Little Richard's) influence with "Jugue" (slang term for sex) and "Jo-Ann Jo-Ann" ( Little Richard was huge in Mexico. The then-President of Mexico attended one of his concerts). Pico Pete also pulls out all the stops with a breakneck Georgia Peach-fueled "Chicken Little.” The Augie Garcia Quintet hailed from neither Mexico nor California (as did most of the Chicano Rockers represented here), but from St. Paul, Minnesota, and are heard here with a sweaty rewrite of Big Joe Turner's "Honey Hush" as "Hi-Yo Silver.” Garcia wore sportcoats with Bermuda shorts,and once pissed off Col. Tom Parker for upstaging Elvis with his wild stage show. There's not a duff track to be found, here, and the album closes with a mystery track, recorded at Sun Studio by an unknown female singer, called "Mexican Rock 'n' Roll.” The Singer may or may not have been Latina (for my Pesos, she appears to b), but not signing her was Sam Phillips' biggest mistake, next to taping over a Charlie Feathers session with a Bar Mitzvah. There's plenty more joyous noise and abandon here, in a genre that may be overlooked, but is far from over-rated. Being that this collection is "Episodio Uno,” we can look forward to more of the same sonidos muy loco (crazy sounds), soon.
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