After the commercial and creative peaks of its "La Bamba" cover and 1992's Kiko, respectively, Los Lobos owed themselves -- and us -- another great record. The Ride, a mix of rearranged band classics and sublime originals, is such an album, not just as strong as the last few outings, but at times exhilarating, powerful, and didactic. Younger outfits such as Ozomatli would do themselves a favor to carefully listen to how and why Los Lobos mix rock and roll with latineces (it's not about banging the congas, kids).
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It all starts right in your face. "La Venganza de los Pelados" ("The Revenge of the Underdogs") is an edgy electric cumbia/huapango featuring Café Tacuba's Rubén Albarrán (owner of the best falsetto in Latin alternative), the first of three Latin songs on the album. But Los Lobos have always been, first and foremost, a superb rock band. Dave Hidalgo has never sung or played better, and Cesar Rosas is at his fiercest on the bluesy "Charmed." Dave Alvin (singer for the Blasters, a band Los Lobos used to open for back in the Seventies) chills you to the bone on "Somewhere in Time," a dark countryish hymn Johnny Cash would be proud of.