By The Light Of The Moon

Los Lobos

Slash Records, 1987

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


By The Light Of The Moon was Los Lobos' second LP, following on the heels of their critically acclaimed debut How Will The Wolf Survive? However, critics at the time gave this 1987 album mixed reviews stating that Los Lobos fell into the dreaded "sophomore slump." I am here to tell you that I disagree and that this is one fine collection of songs. Sure, it has its weaknesses which I will go into later, but it has many strengths and if you are into roots-oriented rock, then this album is well worth your time.

Los Lobos has two distinct songwriting teams: lead singer/guitarist David Hidalgo and drummer Louie Perez write the socially concious ballads on the album, and the other lead singer/guitarist Cesar Rosas writes the fun rockers. This sort of ying/yang is set up right from the start of the album which opens up with the countryish "One Time, One Night" followed by the rocker "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes." Compared with the first album, By The Light Of The Moon is more ballad-oriented, but yet the rockers that are here have got a grittier feel to them.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The fact that there are more ballads is part of the problem with this album. I am not saying I don't like ballads, but I do not think that Hidalgo and Perez were up to writing this many. They seem to be trying too hard to match the success of their song "Will The Wolf Survive?" Sometimes they connect, but other times they do not.

On the first side of By The Light Of The Moon, "One Time, One Night" has its moments but lacks the urgency of their better songs. The same can be said for "Is This All There Is". Producer T-Bone Burnett seemed to force Hidalgo and Perez to write a rocker and their only one on this album, "All I Wanted To Do Was Dance" seems half-hearted. Rosas fares much better on side one with "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes". This song, co-written with Burnett rocks like a combination of fellow 80's Los Angeles bands, The Blasters and X. Rosas handles the vocals on his one ballad, the traditional Mexican song "Prenda Del Alma" with the tenderness it requires.

Now if you've read this far, you must be thinking that I am agreeing with the other critics. True, side one is a bit underwhelming, but side two more than makes up for it. We start this side in a blaze of glory with "Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)" which mixes Tex Mex with a Motown groove and the combination works brilliantly. This is followed by "The Hardest Time", a touching ballad about a woman whose husband has left her and their baby. I like the George Harrison-esque riff on this song. "My Baby's Gone" is an energetic rocker that would not be out of place on a Stevie Ray Vaughan disc. I would hesitate to say Rosas plays guitar as well as Vaughan, but his playing here is loose and he is obviously having a lot of fun.

The next song "River Of Fools" is a revelation. This is a poetic, heartfelt, acoustic mumber that I think is one of their best songs. "The Mess We're In," on the other hand, is the only false step on side two, as it is a little too preachy for my tastes. The album ends with "Tears Of God," a gospel-tinged tune not unlike Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It does not quite have the showstopping ending of that song, but it is still an effective way to close the album.

It is so important to start an album on the right track. Many albums have faltered toward the end and people do not seem to mind, but By The Light Of The Moon makes the mistake of faltering at the beginning, so the perception is that this album is a failure. That is really a shame because By The Light Of The Moon has too many wonderful moments to pass up.

Rating: B

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