Music to Our Ears: Los Lobos Goes Disney

Los Lobos is probably not the first band you'd think of to do an album full of Disney tunes. The Grammy-winning rock group from Los Angeles, which has been together for over 30 years, is known for their mix of multiple styles of both American and Spanish music. And Disney always skews to their Disney Channel-brand acts for remakes from their songbook (see the DVD extra features of all their movies for living, putrid proof). But it's the sense of adventure with this inspired choice that separates the album from the safe, ho-hum effort it might have been with another act.

Don't call Los Lobos Goes Disney a children's record. While some of these songs are essentially targeted towards children, the reality is that the original songs were universally beloved by adults and children alike. That said, this album goes a long way towards deconstructing why that is. Taken out of their often-epic original context, the listener is able to really see the craftsmanship behind the songs, which come from both movies and theme park rides.

Los Lobos effectively picks their spots to integrate their varied mix of rock, blues, and country into a wide variety of classic tunes. They start off the album with a significant departure on the Spanish-sung, fired up "Heigh-Ho" and later on slow down "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" ever so slightly to give the song some interesting breathing room yet maintaing the song's whimsical optimism. On the other hand, they stay pretty faithful to famous theme park songs like The Haunted Mansion's "Grim Grinning Ghosts," which maintains it's creepy organ rhythm and haunted harmonizing, and stay tropical on "The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room."

The band shines best on a pair of songs from Robin Hood, a surprising yet altogether inspired choice of a movie. The gentle "Not In Nottingham" and the rambling "Oo-De-Lally" show the beauty of the music from the oft-underappreciated film (at least to the more casual fan of animation) but also serve to show how effective the power of subtlety can be. They also do Louis Prima proud with a fun rendition of "I Wan'na Be Like You" (from The Jungle Book), which deftly combines traditional Spanish music with some African beats, tapping into the genre-bending talents of the veteran band.

Any misconceptions of an overt Latin reinterpretation of Disney music are proudly defeated on the album. The band stays true to their own styles but also faithful to the varying sounds of the source material, which travel all over the map. The song selection shows a keen appreciation of a Disney songbook that goes deeper than most casual fans recognize. After a few listens, you'll be wondering when Los Lobos will be picked to provide music to a future Disney animated feature, because clearly they are showing how well they could!

RECOMMENDED: For adult fans of the Disney songbook. For parents of little Disney fans who may be growing weary of the constant spins of the old soundtracks. And even just for fans of American and Mexican-infused roots rock.


Kerry said...

Ooohh...this was a GREAT review. It really inspired me to check out this album further! (our local childrens drama group is doing Robin Hood, and I'm wondering if one of these might not be a good addition!) And the "recommendation" at the end is a neat touch. You have a definite knack for the review-style of writing.