Los Lobos has explored rock, roots, R&B and Spanish/Mexican sounds for more than 35 years, and its members are just as vibrant today as when they released their critically acclaimed 1984 debut, "How Will the Wolf Survive?"
The band rose to prominence in 1987 on the strength of its soundtrack to "La Bamba," which shot up the charts, selling more than 2 million copies, and featured the titular No. 1 single. The cover's success caught the band more than a little by surprise.
"When we did it, the movie hadn't even cast the Lou Diamond Philips role. They were asking us, 'Don't you have any friends that can sing?'" keyboardist Steve Berlin said. "They had shot the entire movie " everything that didn't have Ritchie (Valens) " was shot while they were looking for a Ritchie. So, from our point of view, it was like, 'This thing is never coming out, and if it does, it's going to go straight to the video store.' Nothing in our experience up to when we made the record gave us the idea anything good was going to happen for us."
The attention receded nearly as quickly as it came, with some intent. The group followed with 1988's "La Pistola y el Corazón," an album of traditional Mexican folk songs never likely to repeat the Los Angeles act's previous chart-topping feat.
"That was sort of a palate-cleanser, if you will," Berlin said. "We didn't want to be typecast as the 'La Bamba' party band."
The three-time Grammy-winning musicians have released eight studio albums since. Los Lobos has left its Hollywood Records label, but there are still a couple releases on the way to fulfill the group's contractual obligations. The first is an album of Disney covers, titled "Los Lobos Goes Disney," which dropped on Tuesday.
In it, the members put their inimitable spin on a variety of classic children's tunes, including "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," "Heigh-Ho" and "When You Wish Upon a Star / It's a Small World." Los Lobos didn't dumb down the album for kids, and Berlin said the band appealed to Disney that the targeted audience should actually be parents " the purchasers and listeners-to-be.
"It sounds like a Los Lobos record to me," he said. "Obviously, thematically, it's a little bit different than the stuff we normally do, but certainly we didn't cut too many corners sonically."
There's also a live album forthcoming covering the lush, adventurous sounds of Los Lobos' classic 1992 release, "Kiko." And after seriously considering going it alone, the group signed to Shout! Factory, and plans to get cracking on a new album after the new year.
"I don't think in any sense we've rested on anything resembling a laurel," Berlin said. "I don't know if we could find one to rest on. We always take it pretty seriously and get down and dirty, and make every record feel like the first one."
Los Lobos perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Sooner Theatre, 101 E. Main in Norman. "Chris Parker