Raul Malo
Lucky One

1 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Is this the guy who sang the ultra cool Santana sound-alike hit "Suavacito?" We should be so lucky. No, "Suavacito" was honchoed by Jorge Santana, brother of Carlos. Raul Malo was a member of The Mavericks, a group of musical minor leaguers who released half a dozen snoozey country western albums in 80s and 90s. Since the corralling of the Mavericks in 2000, Raul Malo has pursued a solo career, releasing half a dozen albums incorporating Tejano, rockabilly, honky tonk and Cuban music alongside his inexplicable devotion to country and western. He was also a driving force behind the Latin supergroup "Los Super Seven," which was bolstered by the far superior talents of Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. A few years ago he battled cancer and won. Stands to reason he'd call his seventh album "Lucky One," since he wasn't supposed to be around to record it. He's lucky, but anyone who gives it a listen won't be.

"Lucky One" marks the first time Malo has composed songs for one of his solo works since his first effort, "Today" in 2001. (His other albums feature cover tunes written the likes of Kris Kristofferson and Roger Miller.) Malo is known for his blustery, operatic delivery that sounds like Enrico Caruso with a tarantula in his pants. Therein lies the problem. You ever notice how Bono can't get through a song without raising his voice to gut-busting proportions? Malo has the same vocal ambitiousness; he'll occasionally showcase his velvety pipes in breathtaking fashion, then in the next second he sounds like a five alarm fire siren stuck on overload. He's got good pipes, but he also wants everyone on the other side of the globe to know it.

"Moonlight Kiss" is the one salvageable track of the album. It begins like a 60s Vegas show tune, with a gathering of chorus boys playing give and take with Malo's sly vocal. There's a swaggering trumpet solo by Jamerson Sevits straight out of Mexicali, but the campy arrangement works. Why? No megawatt assault by Malo, who keeps his uvula from wagging like a dinner bell.