Rhythm & Views

Los Lobos

One is wont to wonder why Los Lobos, a band boasting two of the best rock singers around, would find it necessary to import a bunch of guest stars on its latest CD. There's no arguing the stellar nature of Little Willie G, Dave Alvin, Bobby Womack, Ruben Blades, Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, Elvis Costello and Mavis Staples, but the over-indulgent stunt-casting makes The Ride seem as cheesy as a musical Love Boat.

Wanna up your funk quotient? Invite Womack to combine his classic soul tune "Across 110th Street" with Cesar Rosas' previously released Lobos tune, "Wicked Rain." Wanna conjure some annoying chamber-pop cachet? Throw together some noisy sound effects with Waits and have him snarl through it while Martha Gonzalez yells at him.

Gospel? Who else to turn to than queen bee Staples to belt out the Lobos' "Someday"? Wanna show you're down with the alt-country thang? Simply bring in The Blasters' Dave Alvin for some rustic yowling on a duet (that we admit isn't bad) with the Lobos' David Hidalgo.

Funny thing is, Los Lobos already have proven they don't need ringers--even those with the critical acclaim of these folks--to make them more interesting and credible.

That said, the opening Caribbean-style collaboration with the Mexican band Café Tacuba, on "La Venganza de Los Pelados," is seriously intoxicating in a dynamic arty fashion, and you can't deny the wonderfulness of tunes featuring Little Willie G and Thompson.

Had one or two of these musicians appeared on the album, it might have felt special. The sheer proliferation of guests, however, not only makes the The Ride seem like an all-star variety show, but it makes the Lobos seem lazy.