Wolf Tracks: The Best of Los Lobos – Los Lobos
Warner Brothers/Rhino 273294
Without a chest full of greatest hits, but a warehouse full of great material, a best-of collection from Los Lobos is like any other compilation — a collection of songs that can keep fans up til the late hours discussing the merits of what’s here and not here. Wolf Tracks is no different. It’s a compact introduction to the East L.A. band’s music for those not yet sold on the vibrant mix of the group’s influences north and south of the Rio Grande: roots rock (“Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes”), Tex-Mex (“One Time One Night”) and traditional Mexican fare (“Las Pistola y La Corazon”) residing alongside each other like some idyllic neighborhood. Those already on board and who haven’t purchased the band’s two-disc compilation, Just Another Band From East L.A. or its four-disc box set, El Cancionero: Mas y Mas, may find use for this CD as a worthy substitute to downloading and creating their own anthology.
Credit goes to producer James Austin who brought together the album’s 20 tracks in such a way that it presents the artistry of the band while acting like a good DJ set by keeping matters moving along with the right mix of upbeat songs and ballads, roots and traditions. He also made the correct move of presenting the work in a chronological order. (If you’re going to give a history of a band, then don’t act like you pressed random’ on the CD player.) But, the reality is that Wolf Tracks doesn’t show major creative transitions within the band because, as the opening tracks “Let’s Say Goodnight” and “Anselma” show, Lobos arrived to listeners fully formed.
Much of the group’s more experimental work is ignored as well as, inexplicably, selections from the children’s album, Papa’s Dream, its early self-financed debut Del Este de Los Angeles (Just Another Band From East L.A.), which is similar in title only to the earlier compilation, and Colossal Head. The addition of the previously unissued track “Border Town Girl” is something that only the fanatical will need. It’s a nice enough tune but pales next to what’s come before it. And it’s one helluva good set from one of America’s best musical acts.