Musical Diversity and Affinity

New CD releases by Perla Batalla, One World, Los Lobos and Union 13 give varied glimpses of la vida Latina

By Abelardo de la Pe??a Jr.
Published on LatinoLA: October 10, 2000

Musical Diversity and Affinity

The diversity and excellence of music created by LA Latinos is in full view (and listen) these days. Four recent releases reflect the eclectic nature of our creativity, and although the chances of hearing any of these artists or their handiwork on the radio waves is relatively slim, each one has in their various tracks a glimmer or two of commercial appeal.
But that's not the point.
Behind each of these CDs is examples of not only the soul and talent of the performer and their collaborators, but also of glimpse of our culture, past and present.
"Heaven and Earth: The Mestiza Voyage" by Perla Batalla (Mechuda Music, 2000)
Perla, born in LA and currently a resident of Ojai, is a former back up singer for the legendary poet and singer Leonard Cohen, known for his introspective, confessional lyrics. Raised in a Mexican household, she absorbed various genres of music at her father's music store, from the classic singers of Mexico, such as Javier Solis and Lucha Villa, to the jazz of John Coltrane and the blues of Muddy Waters.
In this, her third CD, Batalla continues a musical journey to rediscover her raices at the most grounded level, using her superb voice and atmospheric musical accompaniment to soothe the emotional murmurings and celebrate cultural awakenings. Backed by acoustic and steel guitars and mandolins, along with muted percussion, she unleashes emotional intensity in a soaring series of vocal prayers, written with partner David Batteau, as in the first track Teotihuacan.
The Virgin's face
The Lion's breath
A strange coincidence
A fallen star
A frozen place
A waste, a desolation
(chorus) Teotihuacan
Temples of the moon and sun
Calling across the night
Struck like a bird in flight
A child's trust
My father's hand
I close my eyes and dream
A mighty wind
Picks up my feet
My spirit soars inside me
10/18 - 8 pm - Music
CD release party. Largo, 432 N. Fairfax Ave., West Hollywood. 323-852-1073 or 323-852-1851. $10. http://perla.com
"L.A. Mambo" by One World (Sun Stone Records, 2000)
Reminiscent in parts of the best of Malo and Tierra, this Harbor Area-based band offers a varied menu of tracks, ranging from the cool tropicalismo of Abrame La Puerta to the flamenco/mariachi hybrid instrumental Ruben in Paradise.
Produced by band leader, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Frank Unzueta, this CD has a joyful lightness that can serve as the perfect accompaniment to a winding drive around the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Gruff lead vocals by Alandras "Ooogie" Bell bring emotional depth and a whole lot of soul to such heartbreakers as Stay the Night and Say You Will., but not before he cheers you up, finger snappin', to the title cut L.A. Mambo. One World often settles into a happy groove, with punchy horns and sizzling percussion adding fuel to the fun. Key is Unzueta's Latin jazz-based guitar noodlings, boasting a bit of funk honed in the multi-ethnic neighborhoods south of downtown LA.
11/2- 6:30 pm
One World - CD release party, with the band signing autographs and giving away free posters. Jesse's Records, 416 W. 6th Street, San Pedro. (310) 832-3717.
11/4 - 9 pm
An unplugged set. Sacred Grounds Coffee House, 399 W. 6 St., San Pedro. (310) 514-0800 http://sunstonerecords.com
Los Lobos Del Este De Los Angeles (Just Another Band From East L.A.) (Hollywood Records, 2000)
Before they topped the charts, toured the world, sold out concert halls, garnered Grammy's and in general made East LA proud as musical ambassadors representing el barrio, Los Lobos were 70s Chicano longhairs straight out of Garfield High, keeping it real in tiny kitchens and living rooms. A garage band honed on rock 'n roll of the era (think Hendrix and Cream and Thee Midnighters), they decided to get back to their roots, digging into their parent's record collection to learn and play both classic boleros and obscure nuggets.
Homeboys David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Louie Perez, and Conrad Lozano - joined on later projects by saxophonist Steve Berlin - were soaking in the cultural and socio-political cambios in the air and neighborhoods around them and began listening to and studying traditional Mexican music, developing a repertoire of some 150 traditional songs. They learned the acoustic instruments employed by their Mexican precursors - bajo sexto, guitarron, jaran requinto, and button accordion and to make a little beer money, they began playing at barrio restaurants, parties, and weddings. In 1978 the band released an LP of traditional material with a limited pressing of 1,000 copies eventually became a collector's item.
Fans of Los Lobos will recognize some of the tracks from their live show or from their other ode to tradition "La Pistola y El Corazon," particularly the son jarocho rave-ups El Canelo y La Iguana. Olvera Street staple Cielito Lindo is represented, given a somewhat mocking treatment (?Ay, ay, ay, ay, tio Taco!) but the band redeems itself with an lively rendering of the huasteco version, with crying violin and plaintive vocals. Hints of the guitar mastery is evident in the bolero Sabor a Mi and a rare Conrad Lozano vocal energizes an authentic Guantanamera.
The CD, crisp and clean in sound, doesn't just hint at their future greatness, but gives listeners a flavorful and authentic offering of musical history and tradition, with the spirit and soul of young men growing, wise beyond their years.
12/9 - 9:30 pm
House Of Blues, Las Vegas
The Fillmore, San Francisco
12/29 & 12/30
House of Blues, West Hollywood http://www.loslobos.org
"Youth, Betrayal and the Awakening" by Union 13 (Epitaph, 2000)
A far different East LA experience is given a muscular, passionate musical soundtrack by a band that sharpened its skills playing backyard parties and housing projects. Union 13, composed of Jose Mercado (guitar), Edward Escoto (vocals), Louie Villareal (drums)and Rudy Ramos (bass) play with a focused fury that isolates youthful rage and gives it relentless life via furious guitars, kinetic drumming and shouted vocals, spitting out their conscious lyrics, dring your to disagree.
Just be conscious of the fact
be aware
because we're all affected
We're talking punk here, man!
Not for the faint of heart, this CD demands your attention both sonically and mentally with their heartfelt message and the blaring speed and energy of Hondure?o vocalist Edward Escoto? vocals. On this, their third release, their frustation with current society is manifested in a relatively more melodic and mature list of songs. It still rocks, though, and it may drive more passive listeners away
No apologies for their rebelliousness is given.
Attention, however, must be paid.
11/4 and 11/5
Long Beach Convention Center http://www.uniontrece.bizland.com

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