Latin Bugaloo: The Warner Bros. Singles
Listening to this compilations of Malo’s singles that were released in the early 1970s reminds me something Frank Zappa once said about the music industry. “Some music of an unusual or experimental nature did get released. Now look at who were the executives … not hip young guys. These were cigar chomping old guys who looked at the product and said, “I don’t know, who knows what it is? Record it and stick it out, if it sells, all right. Nowadays the media consultants and professional taste makers would find a little niche for Malo But back in the early ’70s cigar chompers said press it up, and see if people like it. That “Oye Como Va” tune did ok.
Malo came out of the dynamic San Francisco scene They took the rock sounds of the day, infused a healthy amount of Latin influences and a full horn section. The group experienced a lot of personnel changes over the course of the four albums these singles are culled from. Unlike, say Chicago, the horn players came and went with alarming frequency. Vocalist Arcello Garcia and guitarist Jorge Santana led the group through the Warner years. The original incarnation of Malo disbanded after their fourth Warner Bros album, Ascencion.
Latin Bugaloo collects the A and B sides of Malo’s Warner singles. In order to get radio play, songs had to be around the magical three-minute mark. To render the tunes radio friendly, these tunes were edited to fit the format. The same tracks on the Malo albums could stretch out closer to the ten-minute mark.
Malo peaked commercially with their first single, the swaying, romantic tune, “Suavecito” reached number 18 on the Billboard charts. If you’ve heard anything by Malo, it’s probably this tune (or you’ll recognize the sample used by Sugar Ray on “Every Morning”). I actually like the Latin jazz of the B side, “Nena” better. The song has an infections rhythm and alternating trumpet, flute and guitar solo. The next single, “Café” sounds a lot like what Jorge’s brother (Carlos) was doing at the time (with horns). The flip side, “Peace”, is an organ driven soul burner brimming with passion.
Malo’s sales steadily declined over the course of their four albums, even if the quality of their music remained high. The music industry, especially the hit oriented top 40 radio of the day, is notoriously fickle. “I Don’t Know” and “Love Will Survive” are nice, but you can definitely hear the rough edges being sanded down so the songs would be more palatable to radio programmers. “Love Will Survive” wouldn’t sound out of place of Chicago’s VII, which was released the same year. The fun Latin jams “Just Say Goodbye” and “Pana” were only released in Turkey.
Over the decades, the Malo has come and gone, broken up and regrouped in different configurations. Arcello Garcia is the only original member in the version of Malo still active today. Latin Bugaloo is a fun bit of Latin rock history and a peak at a time when the old time record men were willing to take chances.