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Posted: November 11, 2009

Los Lobos makes Disney cool

Plus Coco Montoya's early bluesy best

Mike Cote

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LOS LOBOS Los Lobos Goes Disney (Disney Sound)

If someone told me I'd one day listen to "The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room" -- as suffered by parents daily at Disney World -- and think it was cool, I would have warned them to spend less time at the Magic Kingdom.

If any band can make kids' music come alive, it's Los Lobos. On Los Lobos Goes Disney, the East L.A. band delivers a baker's dozen of songs from Disney films and theme park attractions. You've never heard "Heigh-Ho" until you check out this frenzied Spanish-language version. Although many of these songs are familiar - such as "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" and "Cruella De Vil" - several are fairly obscure, including "Not in Nottingham," a sweet ballad from "Robin Hood" sung by David Hidalgo.

Guitarist and singer Cesar Rosas reprises "I Wan'na Be Like You" from The Jungle Book, which the band first covered in the '90s for a compilation of Disney tunes by rock bands (though this version is a bit gentler by comparison.)

The disc ends with a surf-guitar-meets-traditional-Mexican-music instrumental medley of "When You Wish Upon a Star/It's a Small World." Something for the kids - and you, too.

COCO MONTOYA The Essential Coco Montoya (Blind Pig)

Guitarist Coco Montoya was just getting his start as a solo artist when he signed with San Francisco-based Blind Pig Records in the mid-'90s, but those early efforts proved he was more than ready to step into the spotlight.

Between 1995 and 1997, Montoya released three albums that focused not only on his fiery guitar playing - chops he refined during apprenticeships with Albert Collins and John Mayall - but also on his soulful singing voice.

The Essential Coco Montoya gathers 12 highlights from Gotta Mind to Travel, Ya Think I'd Know Better and Just Let Go, including high-energy guitar workouts ("Seven Desires"), bluesy dance funk ("Monkey See, Monkey Do") and gospel-flavored ballads ("Sending Me Angels").

Montoya, credited as producer, selected the songs for the compilation, which is sequenced to present the material as a fine mix tape rather than a chronological document. And since the production throughout was so strong and punchy, these songs hold together well as an album.

The California-bred guitarist, who started his music career as a drummer, was just starting to emerge as a songwriter so among the several songs Montoya co-wrote are covers by blues artists like his mentor Collins (the slow-burning "Do What You Want To Do") and Robert Ward (the up-tempo rocker "Fear No Evil").

During a recent interview with Montoya after a show in a Colorado mountain town, he mentioned that Keb' Mo', the producer behind his upcoming album for Ruf Records, was spending a lot of time focusing on the vocals, a bit of a change for an artist best known for his guitar playing.

But Montoya already showed great promise as a singer on these early tracks. On the ballad "Losing You," his explosive guitar playing may win the battle, but his vocal performance, full of angst and longing, comes a close second.

It's easy to see why these albums quickly brought Montoya attention on the Billboard charts. Their mix of blues, rock and pop are instantly accessible and a decade later remain a strong dose of contemporary roots music.

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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