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The Iguanas : "The Iguanas" : Margaritaville/MCA

February 25, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

Having staked out a reputation as one of New Orleans' favorite bar bands, the Iguanas have become sufficiently well-known in the region to number among their fans Jimmy Buffett, whose new Margaritaville label signed them for their recording debut.

A great bar band doesn't automatically translate into a great recording band or a great radio band. There's something about the ambience of a smoky, sweaty juke joint that no tape--digital or analog--ever can quite capture. The Iguanas make the jump pretty well, though, thanks to a diverse musical palette that includes not only the usual bar band blues and R&B but touches of Cajun-zydeco, Tex-Mex, Cuban-Caribbean and good old Southern country.

The main shortcoming is Rod Hodges' singing. He's not bad; he's just not nearly as distinctive as the group's eclectic instrumental sound, in which the basic guitar-bass-drums lineup is augmented by tasty accordion, sax, bajo sexto and additional percussion work.

The original material covers themes you'd expect from a bar band, from lost love ("Take Your Pictures, Your Letters and Your Ring") to found lust ("This Night of Sin"). And there's a decent version of that oft-covered Crescent City classic, Allen Toussaint's "Fortune Teller." But it's the horn-drive big-band blues of "You Make It Hard" and the lively Tejano bounce of "Don't Treat Her Mean" that will make you want to be first in line when the Iguanas show up at any of the local watering holes.

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