Groovy galleria |

Groovy galleria

Matt Zalaznick
Special to the DailyLos Super Seven, featuring members of Los Lobos, masterfully blends pan-Latin rhtyms with folk, rock 'n' roll, calypso, bossa nova, country, etc., etc. ...

Other albums, like the two by Latin juggernaut Los Super Seven, sound like someone snuck a 32-track recorder into a livingroom where a batch of very-talented friends – with several bottles of wine on hand – were grooving through a dozen of their favorite songs and coming up with a few new tunes along the way.

In Los Super Seven’s case, these very-talented friends also happen to be major recording stars within their own milieus. Among the luminaries that appear on the band’s two stellar albums, “Los Super Seven,” released in 1998, and “Canto,” released in 2001, are Los Lobos frontmen David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas and Louie Perez; Tex-Mex singers Freddy Fender and Rick Trevino; the bandleader Ruben Ramos; and Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso.

To inject some twang, country-folk journeyman Joe Ely even shows up to lead the band through Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” – though it’s probably the least interesting performance on the group’s first release.

On one hand, the albums are reminiscent of a more legendary, just as unpretentious musical gathering – Bob Dylan’s and the Band’s “Basement Tapes.” The genius of those recordings is how spontaneous they sound. The songs, mostly written by Dylan, have an almost organic feel as if they sprung suddenly from the musicians’ minds and instruments.

Los Super Seven’s albums are certainly a little more polished, but they are brought most brightly to life by their campfire simplicity.

And this is not to say songs carefully constructed and orchestrated, such as Pink Floyd’s music, suffer from hours and hours of arranging. But groups not as talented as Pink Floyd –and many aren’t –often smother their songs under too much orchestration.

On the other hand, Los Super Seven’s music also is comparable to the Cuban smash hit, “Buena Vista Social Club.” Both thrive on those weepy, locked-out-of-the-house at three in the morning strains that flow through Latin music; both, in turns, get their carnival energy from the melancholy carousing of accordions and fiddles and warbling baritone vocals.

But while “Buena Vista Social Club” is a group of ace Cuban musicians saying “listen to this tremendous music we’ve been making all these years,” Los Super Seven’s aim seems to be to create a new genre.

To label the group “crossovers,” would not only be demeaning but somewhat ignorant. What “crossover” usually means is that an artist, who has spent his career in a more obscure, poorly understood, even ignored genre, has gone mainstream. In most cases, these artists drop what’s best about their old styles and wind-up with some processed sound that doesn’t add much to the pop music canon – except maybe one or two smash hits.

Los Lobos themselves have fallen into such potholes. Los Lobos’ worse music is generic, droning rock ‘n’ roll topped by lyrics that sound like they came from a few hours spent with a rhyming dictionary. Their best music comes when they keep their guitars charging, but lace the wall of sound with the sounds of their Latino roots. That recipe gave their lyrics an evocative magical realism and produced the group’s one true masterpiece, the 1992 album, “Kiko.”

Like Los Lobos’ strongest songs, Los Super Seven’s music is a brand new hybrid born of the best of other styles, among them Mexican, Cuban, Brazilian and American. Rock ‘n’ roll, after all, emerged from the collision of blues, country and folk music. And while Los Super Seven’s songs may not be the apotheosis of this new blend – and it certainly isn’t as monumental as the creation of rock ‘n’ roll – they’re at least a launching point for other artists to improve upon.

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Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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