This review was written for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by David Schultz
From the opening beat of Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeno Band's "!Puro Party!," you know that this isn't going to be your typical Tex-Mex album. Melding genres of music (that include, but are not limited to, blues, rock and roll, New Orleans, Latin jazz, and rhythm and blues) into their brand of Mexican-American music, Dr. Loco has created one of the most exciting and diverse new releases of the year. Produced by the internationally reknowned Wayne Wallace, and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, each song of !Puro Party! is a tribute to the different artists and musical styles that have influenced the band.
The 12 tracks on the album begin with the title track, an jam-rap that recalls the horn-driven sound of Tower of Power and Earth, Wind, and Fire. The second track, "Vamos a Bailar", is a mixture between swing, cha-cha and mambo music that seamlessly combines English and Spanish lyrics. "Pancha's Mix" is a medley of traditional Mexican melodies and polkas that includes the instantly-recognizable "Mexican Hat Dance."
The album then shifts towards a more bluesy feel with the arrival of "Linda Lu", a bilingual blues number bringing to mind the guitar and vocal styles of Robert Cray's horn-based blues. Listening to the next track, "Years Off My Life", you might even imagine that it was being performed by Los Lobos.
The next three songs display Dr. Loco's fondness for Caribbean music. If you close your eyes during "Esperanza", you can imagine that you're listening to street musicians playing steel drums. In fact, this Dr. Loco original was written after their trip to Cuba in opposition to the U.S. citizen travel ban and blockade. The song is dedicated for those "committed to keeping alive the hope of libertad, paz, and justicia for all." "Gozando Asi" is a merengue from the Dominican Republic and "Serrano", another original, is a jazzy instrumental that would be right at home on a Herb Alpert record.
Finally come the rock and roll numbers. A fiery version of "Wooly Bully" is something like you've probably never heard before as the song is performed entirely in Espanol. And finally, the L.A. Chicano rock scene, to which Los Lobos belong, is homaged in "Homeboy's Boogie."
All good party bands must have at least one slow dance number to satisfy the lovers in the crowd. Dr. Loco does not dissappoint with the last track before a reprise of "!Puro Party!", "Cuando Vivas". This song is a Mexican mariachi ballad dedicated to the Texas Tornadoes who helped popularize Tex-Mex music, thereby opening the door for Dr. Loco's band themselves.
On paper, a blend of all these musical styles may appear to be too garish or even too incohesive. But as the title of the album itself is a marriage between Spanish and English, Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeno Band succeeds in forming a wonderful example of how to blend different genres of music into a creation that is instantly lovable by just about everyone. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that is the case, then there are plenty of musicians who should be honored by having Dr. Loco's Rocking Jalapeno Band not only imitate their style, but also blend musical genres into an album that in practice is Pure Party!
!Puro Party! is Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalpeno Band's second album on Flying Fish Records. Both his first record, "Movimiento Music," and his current release "!Puro Party!" can be ordered from Flying Fish Records, Inc. (1-800-FYI-FISH).