SINCE HIS last domestic album release in 1983, Joe King Carrasco has lost his major label deal, shaken up his band and settled (perhaps permanently) into the rock club circuit.
While Carrasco's career appears downwardly mobile, the fact is he has organized the hottest band of his career (the Crowns, now las Coronas) and has just released his most irresistible collection of Latin-influenced rock yet, "Bandido Rock." Carrasco seems an artist reborn here and it may be because, with stardom now an afterthought, he has openly committed his music to the styles and political concerns of Latin America.
Longterm fans of his punky party sound need not worry about Carrasco turning his music into a political lecture a la Little Steven. Those oblivious to lyrics can dance wildly through this collection of fiery Latino rock 'n' roll and will never notice that most of the songs are decidedly anti-imperialist. In fact, in "Aruba Sandino" and "Dame Tu Nook Nook," the cheesy organ lines and speedy garage-rock of the early Crowns are given a new and more confident kick.
What distinguishes this album, though, are the most Latinized numbers like the title cut, "Hey Gringo No Pasaran" and "Fuera Yanqui." Thanks to drummer Dick Ross' mastery of the tricky dance rhythms, the fierce guitar play of Bobby Balderama and Marcelo Guana's fluttery accordian, the Crowns are now creating the most captivating Latino rock since Santana's heyday. What Carrasco has accomplished is an extraordinary musical fusion that shares the spirit of Latin American music, without ignoring the fears of the Latin American people.
The Royal Crescent Mob could very well be the hottest funk/garage combo to ever come out of Columbus, Ohio, but one suspects there's little competition.
The emphasis on "Omerta," the band's first album, is on the brittle guitar chords and elastic bass lines of protofunk (singer David Ellison used to cut the grass on Ohio Player Sugar Bonner's lawn, which could be the oddest significant influence in pop today), filtered through the Mob's other fancies, the hard-rock of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. The blues make an occasional appearance via Ellison's harmonica, but the emphasis is on rural Midwestern party funk. Which means that the Mob's covers of the Ohio Players' "Fire" and James Brown's "Payback" make sense in a weirdly intriguing way, but that it's unlikely JB will cover their opus de funk, "Love and Tunafish" or "Mob's Revenge," which sounds like Traffic on diesel fuel. JOE KING CARRASCO Y LAS CORONAS -- "Bandido Rock" (Rounder 9012). THE ROYAL CRESCENT MOB -- "Omerta" (Moving Target MT009).
Both appearing Saturday at the 9:30 Club.