WITH ITS bleating organ, bouncy two-step and crazed party shouts, Tex-Mex rock 'n' roll has been an inspirational genre ever since the mid-'60s hits by Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs, ? & the Mysterians and the Sir Douglas Quintet. Since 1978, Joe "King" Carrasco has done more than anyone to keep that inspiration alive.
Carrasco's new album, "Royal, Loyal & Live," should have been a triumph, for it matches the Austin singer with the members of Little Joe y la Familia, the state's top Tejano (Spanish-language Tex-Mex) band in front of the state's hard-partying students on spring break on San Padre Island. Moreover, the live album includes 77 minutes of music (one of the longest playing CDs ever) and 10 of the 15 songs have never appeared on a Carrasco album before.
Unfortunately, Carrasco and his band give old songs like "96 Tears" and "Hey Joe," as well as the band's newest material, mainstream hard-rock arrangements that could have come from anywhere in North America. They take away the catchy organ/accordion riffs and the syncopated dance rhythms and replace them with squealing guitar solos and a sledgehammer 4/4 beat.
There are a few shining moments (traditional Tex-mex readings of "Baby, Let's Go to Mexico," "Manana" and "No Problema"), but most of the songs are delivered with a graceless bluntness. This is the weakest album Carrasco has ever released.