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Los Super Seven Los Super Seven
Album: Los Super Seven/Canto
Label: Floating World
Tracks: 24
Website: https://www.floatingworldrecords.co.uk

What we have here is a two CD set comprising the first two albums by Los Super Seven . If you haven't come across their music before, they are best described as a concept rather than a regular band. Think Buena Vista Social Club and you won't be far wrong. Whereas Buena Vista Social Club was a loose conglomeration of veteran Cuban musicians, Los Super Seven is the Mexican equivalent . It is best two look at the two albums separately as they feature two very different line-ups with only three musicians who are common to both [Ruben Ramos, Cesar Rosas and Rick Trevino].

The first, eponymously-titled album features an all-star Tex-Mex line-up of Freddy Fender [vocals],David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas [both from Los Lobos on guitars and vocals], Flaco Jimenez [who will be familiar to Ry Cooder fans ,on accordion], Joel Guzman [ accordion and vocals], Joe Ely [guitar and vocals] , Doug Sahm [of Sir Douglas Quintet fame on vocals] , Max Baca [bajo sexto] together with Ruben Ramos and Rick Trevino.

The album gets off to a flying start with the traditional Tex-Mex number "El Canoero" ,performed by Rosas and Ramos , followed by Freddy Fender's heartfelt rendition of "Piensa En Mi" [Think of Me] , a romantic ballad from the 1940's. Fender also provides spirited lead vocals on the lively "Un Lunes Por La Manana" [Early On A Monday Morning].

Joe Ely is one of my favourite Texan singer-songwriters and he works his magic on a lovely Tex-Mex version of Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman's tragic tale of Mexican migrant workers "Plane Wreck At Los Gatos [Deportees]".

Another delight is Doug Sahm's distinctive vocal on the Los Lobos track "Rio De Tenampa". Apparently , producer Steve Berlin spotted Sahm in the car park and invited him to sing on this track . Sadly, Sahm died of a heart attack in 1999 , a year after the album was released. The album was a great success, winning the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Mexican/Mexican-American album.

As I mentioned, the second album by Los Super Seven features an almost entirely different line-up and is somewhat different stylistically , moving away from the Tex-Mex sound of the first album to encompass a more Cuban/ South American flavour.

The big names on "Canto" are Raul Malo [from The Mavericks] , Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso and Peruvian chanteuse Susana Baca , who contributes a sultry torch ballad "Drumi Mobila".

Malo contributes two vocals, a marvellous Roy Orbison-like performance on the slow-burning,jazzy opener "Siboney" and also on the lighter, Cuban-influenced "Me Voy Pa'l Pueblo".

Caetano [ most recently spotted singing a duet on the Eurovision Song Contest !] contributes two Brazilian Tropicalia-type numbers, "Qualquer Coisa" and "Baby". Let's just say that I am not a fan of this style music ,which ,to my ears , has little in common with the Tex-Mex music of the first album . Given the choice, I would take earlier album every time!

For the sake of completeness , it's worth mentioning that Los Super Seven did, in fact, make a third album, in 2005 , a tribute to Tex-Mex Radio titled "Heard It On The X" which , thankfully, was a return to their original Tex-Mex sound and which featured a great line-up of singers including returnees Joe Ely, Freddy Fender and Raul Malo ,as well as Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt ,Lyle Lovett and Delbert McClinton. It also featured the band Calexico as well as the wonderful Flaco Jimenez and Charlie Sexton, the Texan guitarist from Bob Dylan's band ,who co-produced the album.

Overall, this is an excellent re-packaging of the first two albums by Los Super Seven . My personal preference is for the earlier album as it stays closer to the Tex-Mex sound but fans of Cuban, Peruvian and Brazilian styles will also find much to enjoy from the second outing.

Peter Cowley