Los Lobos – Los Lobos Goes Disney (Walt Disney Records) Keith Boyd 12.8.9
Let’s face it, the music in Disney’s animated movies is usually pretty damn great. Depending on how old you are songs from “Supercalifragilisticexpealladoious” to “A Whole New World” are deeply embedded in your childhood memories. In the late 1980’s they shifted from character actors singing their signature songs to a never ending stream of pop stars doing the honors. And while this switch has also led to a decline in the pure enjoyablity of the music, many of these star vehicles have produced some classics. Probably the Golden Era for Disney starts in the late 30’s and continues until the early 60’s. During this time they made Sleeping Beauty, Lady and The Tramp, Jungle Book and a host of others that were not only exploding with the retina dazzling colors of some of the greatest animators of all time, the music was incredible. These songs have always been ripe for the picking as covers for modern bands and in the 80’s there was even a great compilation of somewhat underground artists doing Disney called “Stay up Late”. On that disc was a souped up version of “I Wanna Be Like You” from Jungle Book done by Los Lobos. Not only did it shed new light on the song it also cast the talents of Los Lobos in a new frame. It was fun and danceable. It reminded you of the classic movie while adding in a sort pan-Latin American influence that really popped. The track left you wanting more and now Los Lobos delivers. Their new album, “Los Lobos Does Disney” is a varied and thoroughly enjoyable ride through some classic and obscure Disney moments.
The album begins with the Snow White dwarf mining song, “Heigh Ho”. Here they transform the original, a sort of Tyrollean yodel of a number, into a vaguely 1950’s soul number. The album not only includes music from the films but includes a few examples (“The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” and “Grim Ginning Ghosts”) of the theme music from rides at Disney land. Los Lobos wisely sticks with songs from the afore mentioned “Golden Era” so thankfully were not treated to a remake of “The Circle of Life”. They even manage to pull out an obscurity, “The Ugly Bug Ball”, originally sung by Burl Ives.
It goes without saying that the musicianship and singing are impeccable on this disc. Lead vocalists David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas are in fine voice and impart a fun and “in character” quality to each of the songs. They remake their own version of “I Wanna Be Like You” and manage to make a subtler if more staid take.From there they touch on everyone from Uncle Remus to Cruella Di Vil and throughout they manage to both honor the original while delivering a unique Los Lobos flavor. Los Lobos might just be one of the last great “bands” out there. Throughout their career they have explored deep Latin roots, Soul, Rock-A-Billy, Country, Experimental and just about anything and anywhere their sizable imaginations have led them. Along the way they have produced several timeless classics and many adventurous forays. This time out is nothing less. There is something for everyone on this disc. Put it on and I guarantee more than a few memories will come flooding back.