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World Music CD Reviews North American

Various Artists

By Jeff Tamarkin
Published December 19, 2006

East L.A.: Rockin’ The Barrio
Varese Sarabande

Long before the phrase rock en español was a whisper on any marketing executive’s lips, East L.A. was rife with homegrown rock and roll bands of Chicano origin. Although there was never enough of a movement in place in the ‘60s to give their subgenre a name, these bands have since been lumped together as purveyors of the “East Side Sound,” and 18 prime examples of same, some rather obscure, are reprised here. Cannibal and the Headhunters’ “Land Of 1000 Dances,” the best known of these lo-fi Latino garage-rock nuggets, enjoyed the highest profile, reaching number 30 in Billboard in 1965. With Frankie “Cannibal” Garcia at the helm, the record’s endless “na na na na na” chant was ubiquitous in high school hallways in the day, and although R&B legend Wilson Pickett had a bigger hit with it a year later, it’s the Cannibal version that’s most fondly recalled. Of the other tracks, the Premiers’ 1964 “Farmer John” was the most successful, but there are plenty of other gritty slices of raw regional rock here worth a listen.