El Chicano - El Chicano were one of the best Latin rock outfits ever to come out of the US. Formed in East Los Angeles in the late sixties, they were no doubt influenced by the success of bands like Santana with their fusion of rock, jazz and Latin rhythms. El Chicano were formed by keyboard player Bobby Espinosa, guitarist Mickey Lespron, drummer John de Luna, percussionist Andre Baeza and bassist Freddie Sanchez, with vocalist Ersi Arvizu joining in 1971. This debut album was released on the MCA Kapp label and they had a minor hit with this Gerald Wilson penned number. The blossoming Latin rock scene gave birth to a number of great bands such as Sapo, Malo (which was the band formed by vocalist Arcelio Garcia and guitarist Jorge Santana, Carlos' brother), Azteca and Tierra, and El Chicano were undoubtedly one of the better ones. Later album releases were of a consistently high standard, with excellent musicianship, especially from Espinosa and Lespron, who, at one stage, was joined by Jerry Salas, another very competent guitarist. Other additions included Rudy Regaldo on timbales and percussion, Eddie Rodriguez on drums and Joe Perriera on bass. All in all, nine very good albums were released by this amazing band before they split in the late seventies, but the good news is that Espinosa revived the band a few years ago, and if their latest album "Painting the Moment" is anything to go by, then the best is indeed "yet to come". A couple of "best of" albums are available and are essential listening for anyone into Latin rock at its best. Stay tuned for more bands who play this most infectuous, sensual and rhythmic and happy music!

El Chicano 
El Chicano - Zaire, from "The Best of Everything" in 1975, the 6th album from this stunning US Latin rock outfit who were formed in East LA in the late sixties. El Chicano are well known to Dinosaur Days listeners, as hey've been featured many times on the show over the years. El Chicano were formed out of the ashes of a band called the V.I.P's, by keyboard player/vocalist Bobby Espinosa, percussionist Andre Baeza, guitarist Mickey Lespron, bassist/vocalist Freddie Sanchez and drummer/vocalist John De Luna. The band was formed around the same time as other Latin rock outfits such as Malo, Azteca, Santana and Tierra in what was known as The Eastside Sound, also known as Chicano Power. El Chicano released their debut album, "Viva Tirado", named after the famous Gerald Wilson number, on MCA subsidiary label Kapp Records in 1970. It was essentially an album of covers, featuring tracks by The Doors, The Beatles, Herbie Hancock and Burt Bacharach, but it established the band as one of the best of their genre. They went on to record a total of seven albums for the label, their final one being "Pyramid of Love and Friends" in 1975. They also underwent a number of line-up changes along the way, with the likes of percussionist Rudy Regaldo, guitarist/vocalist Jerry Salas, vocalists Rudy and Steve Salas, bassist Joe Perreira and others joining the band atv arious stages. 1976 saw the band now with a new record label, Shadybrook Records. The line-up of Baeza, Jerry Salas, Perreira, Lespron, Espinosa and De Luna recorded what was to be their final album, "This is..El Chicano" in 1976. (Incidentally, this album has finally recently been released on CD). The band's history from then on seems a tad unclear. The Salas brothers continued in Tierra, but El Chicano seemed a thing of the past. That is, until the mid to late nineties when Bobby Espinosa took a revived El Chicano, together with the revived Malo and Tierra, on the road. The magical reunions were captured live on the double "Latin Legends Live" album, released in 1997. El Chicano also have a new album out, "Painting the Moment", which features Bobby Espinosa, Mickey Lespron, Rudy Regaldo and others. All that remains now is for some of the band's earlier material to be released on CD (although some have apparently been released on those nigh impossible-to-get Japanese pressings). 
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Biography by Alex Henderson
Over the years, El Chicano has often been compared to Santana and, to be sure, there are a lot of parallels. Both are from California (although different parts of the state), both are led by Mexican-Americans, both have recorded in English as well as in Spanish, and both have favored a very eclectic and unpredictable mixture of rock, soul, funk, jazz, blues, and Afro-Cuban salsa. Further, there is no getting around the fact that El Chicano (whose Spanish name means "the Chicano" or "the Mexican-American") has been heavily influenced by Carlos Santana's outfit. Nonetheless, El Chicano has a style of its own and Santana isn't the band's only influence. Over the years, El Chicano has been affected by everyone from Chicano soulsters like Cannibal & the Headhunters and Thee Midniters to Latin soul-jazz favorite Pucho to salsa heavyweights such as Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, and Mongo Santamaria. El Chicano's members were not only affected by the Mexican-American experience, they were also well aware of what Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians were doing on the East Coast and in the Caribbean. El Chicano, which was originally called the V.I.P.'s, was founded in East Los Angeles (a heavily Mexican-American area) in the late '60s. The band's original members included co-founder/leader Bobby Espinosa (organ, electric keyboards, acoustic piano, vocals), Freddie Sanchez (bass, vocals), Mickey Lespron (lead guitar, vocals), Andre Baeza (congas), and John De Luna (drums). Along the way, El Chicano had more than its share of personnel changes; members who didn't join until the '70s included Ersi Arvizu (lead vocals), Hector "Rudy" Regalado (timbales, vocals), Max Garduno (congas), Danny Lamonte (drums), Brian Magness (bass), Joe Perreira (bass), Jerry Salas (lead vocals, guitar), Rudy Salas (guitar), and Steve Salas (lead vocals), among others. (The Salas brothers went on to join another East L.A. band, Tierra, which was an El Chicano spinoff and is best-known for its hit 1980 cover of the Intruders' Philadelphia soul ballad "Together"). After creating a buzz in East L.A. in the late '60s, El Chicano signed with MCA in 1970 and recorded its debut album, Viva Tirado. The instrumental title song, which was written by jazz pianist Gerald Wilson, was released as a single and became El Chicano's biggest hit; the recording reached number 28 on Billboard's pop singles chart and number 20 on its R&B singles chart. On regional L.A. charts, "Viva Tirado" spent about 12 weeks at number one. "Viva Tirado" (which was inspired by Mexican bullfighter Jose Ramon Tirado) was a rarity; in the '60s and '70s, one rarely saw any type of jazz instrumental — straight-ahead, fusion, soul-jazz, or otherwise — climbing that high up the national Billboard charts. When a jazz instrumental became a hit single in the pop or R&B markets, it was the exception instead of the rule. While the "Viva Tirado" single didn't make El Chicano national superstars — they were never as big as Santana — the band did acquire a loyal cult following and was especially popular in the Mexican-American neighborhoods of the southwestern United States. After the Viva Tirado LP, El Chicano went on to record several more albums for MCA, including 1971's Revolucion, 1972's Celebration, 1973's El Chicano, 1974's Cinco, 1975's The Best of Everything, and 1976's Pyramid of Love & Friends. El Chicano's second biggest hit came in 1973 when MCA released the brown-eyed soul classic "Tell Her She's Lovely" as a single. Nationally, the tune (which features Jerry Salas on lead vocals) wasn't a major hit; "Tell Her She's Lovely" only reached number 40 on Billboard's pop singles chart and number 98 on the magazine's R&B singles chart. But in Mexican-American neighborhoods, the song was huge — among Chicano Baby Boomers, "Tell Her She's Lovely" was as popular as War's big '70s hits. El Chicano's contract with MCA ended in 1976; that year, the band recorded its first post-MCA album, This Is...El Chicano, for the independent Shady Brooke label (where the L.A. residents enjoyed more creative control than they had during their six years at MCA). The band's next LP, Look of Love, was released on Musidisc in 1977; then in the early '80s, El Chicano briefly recorded for Columbia, which released the romantic blue-eyed soul tune "Do You Want Me" as a single in 1983. Although not a national chart-buster, the song became a minor hit (primarily in Mexican-American areas). El Chicano didn't do a lot of recording in the '80s or '90s, but the band made a long overdue return to the studio with 1998's Painting the Moment. Released on Thump, that CD marked the return of original lead guitarist Mickey Lespron, who had not recorded with El Chicano since the '70s. 


John DeLuna
Bobby Espinosa
Mickey Lespron
Freddie Sanchez
Andre Baeza

The V.I.P.'s

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El Chicano - 1970 - Viva Tirado - 2.5/5

El Chicano - 1971 - Revolucion - 3/5

El Chicano - 1972 - Celebration - 3/5

El Chicano - 1973 - El Chicano - 4/5

El Chicano - 1974 - Cinco - 3/5

El Chicano - 1975 - Pyramid of Love & Friends - 3/5

El Chicano - 1976 - This Is...El Chicano - 4/5

El Chicano - 1998 - Painting the Moment - 4/5



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