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Album Review

August 29, 1993|ROBERT HILBURN

LOS LOBOS

"Just Another Band From East L.A.: A Celebration"

Slash/Warner Bros.

* * * * *

Whether singing in Spanish in its early days or in English now . . . whether reviving a song by Ritchie Valens or Marvin Gaye . . . whether playing a norteno classic or one of its own inspiring tales about the resiliency of the human spirit, Los Lobos is a great band.

As this two-disc retrospective demonstrates, the band has evolved quite remarkably from wedding receptions in East Los Angeles to the national scene without losing any of its sense of neighborhood warmth.

In that evolution, the group has gained a songwriting ambition and depth that have made it one of the most valuable and original forces in the history of American rock. Indeed, Los Lobos reflects in its best work a blend of disarming cultural tradition and exquisite artistry that may well be unmatched in rock since the Band in the '70s.

For newcomers to Los Lobos, this 41-song package offers most of the group's peak moments, including nine selections from its two most distinguished albums, "By the Light of the Moon" and "Kiko." For longtime fans, there's the bonus of 15 previously unavailable tracks, including nine live selections. An essential work.

Retrospective albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five stars (a classic).

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