Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 11: Los Lobos, "Don't Worry Baby"

Artist: Los Lobos
Song: "Don't Worry Baby"
Album: How Will The Wolf Survive?
Year: 1984


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While many rightfully point to the 1980's as one of the more disappointing and uncreative eras in music history, there were a number of exceptions to this rule.  Though the overall scene was one of copycat personas and countless songs of excess, it was the few bans that dug deep into the roots of music and found new combinations where one can find some of the most uniquely brilliant moments in all of music history.  Among the bands that were able to rise from this rather uninspiring era, few brought a similar beauty and musical creativity similar to that of Los Angeles Latin and roots rockers, Los Lobos.  Boasting an amazing fusion of a number of different styles, they quickly transitioned from a widely regarded "bar band" to become one of the most revered bands across the globe with the release of their truly phenomenal 1984 debut, How Will The Wolf Survive?  The record is filled with presentations of every side of the bands' wide-ranging musical personalities, as there are songs based in folk, Latin, and rock that can be found on the album.  It is the fact that even while they push their sound so far out, there is never a loss of continuity, that makes Los Lobos so fantastic, and it is much the reason that more than two decades later, the album remains fresh and exciting.  However, while many regard them as a bit more on the mellow side of rock and roll, few songs can compare to the drive and power found within Los Lobos' 1984 song, "Don't Worry Baby."

From the moment that "Don't Worry Baby" begins, almost every preconceived notion that one might have about Los Lobos is eliminated, as the listener is treated to one of the most high-energy, captivating guitar riffs ever recorded.  As guitarists David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas split from one another, the contrast in sounds is absolutely fantastic, and the way in which one guitar seems to ring across the track behind the other is nothing short of stunning.  It is this ringing to slight sting to the song that gives it a "Tex-Mex" feel, and such perfection in tone is rarely found elsewhere.  In contrast, the lead guitar brings to mind the spirit of the 1950's, and yet there is unquesitonably a modern feel that runs throughout "Don't Worry Baby."  This bluesy sound is almost overwhelming in its perfection, and one cannot overlook the value of having the great T-Bone Burnett as the producer.  Yet the guitars are also balanced by one of the finest rhythms of the era, as drummer Louie Per├ęz brings a bounce and freedom to the song.  It is this open feeling that gives the listener a truly joyful sensation, and yet the way in which bassist Conrad Lozano moves across the track gives it a bit of a sense of danger or malice.  Such fusion of tone, mood, and the balance between old and new sounds are rarely anything short of spectacular on recordings, and few have achieved results as magnificently as one can experience on "Don't Worry Baby."

Adding the ideal finishing touch to the song in terms of both tone and content, the vocals from David Hidalgo are without question the finest of his entire career.  While on a majority of the songs of Los Lobos, Hidalgo lets his beautiful voice soar, on "Don't Worry Baby," he brings a passion and growl that are absolutely superb.  This slight variation in my voice perfectly matches the upbeat music over which he sings, and it reinforces the classic 50's sound, but never loses the unique twist which Los Lobos provides.  However, it is within the vocals that the slightly dark, if not haunting character of "Don't Worry Baby" comes into better focus, though one must listen closely to fully appreciate this aspect.  While the music itself, as well as the inflection in Hidalgo's voice never moves from the upbeat, spirited tone, the words themselves are some of the most paranoid and nervous ever penned, and it is this juxtaposition that becomes one of the most enjoyable aspects of "Don't Worry Baby."  Even from the first lines, it becomes clear that the protagonist is a bit "off," and it is highlighted later when Hidalgo sings, "...you hear the sound of footsteps, stealing 'cross the floor, you picked up the receiver, you didn't know what for..."  The lyrics work perfectly in their own unique way, and yet it is more in the way which David Hidalgo sings that helps the vocal track to serve as the perfect final element to "Don't Worry Baby."

In many ways, "Don't Worry Baby" represents one of the extremes of the sound of Los Lobos, as it is without question one of, if not their hardest rocking recorded track.  It is this song which shows their ability to easily hold their own with any other band, as well as displays a large number of their own musical influences.  The way in which the group is able to seamlessly fuse together blues, soul, and even a bit of psychobilly into this unique rock formula is just one of the reasons the band is held in such high esteem to this day.  Yet it is also the fact that within the greater context of How Will The Wolf Survive?, the song is completely on its own n comparison, yet manages to fit perfectly with all of the other musical faces of Los Lobos.  In short, there are few groups in history that have shown such skill at taking on so many different musical personalities, and due to this fact alone, one cannot overstate the importance of Los Lobos within the larger context to the 1980's music scene.  There were virtually no other groups that were making music with the level of creativity and confidence that one can experience on the album, and it is a testament to just how well the band had honed their skills in the years leading up to this unprecedented debut.  Even on the album, there are a number of tracks which represent the best of other sides of the band, but there is simply no other song in their catalog that brings the unique rock fusion that is Los Lobos than what one can experience on their 1984 track, "Don't Worry Baby."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cesar Rohas sings this song.