Review: The Cruzados – She’s Automatic
Deko Records (January 28th, 2022)
Reviewer: Chris O’Connor
Okay, a quick history lesson – back in the mists of times there was a Californian Latino punk band called The Plugz, and featured guitarist/vocalist Tito Lavirra, drummer Charlie Quintana, and bass guitarist Barry McBride, they are now recognised as being THE very first DIY Punk band out of Los Angeles. After a couple of years, McBride left, to be replaced by Tony Marsico, and shortly after that, by lead guitarist Steve Hufsteter. They were also the first Punk band to utilise a brass section and pianist – to give them a distinctly Latino sound. Later claims to fame came through appearances in the movies ‘Repo Man’ and ‘From Dawn To Dusk’.
In 1983 The Plugz disbanded, and Messrs Marsico, Hufsteter,and Lavirra formed Latino rock heroes The Cruzados, with drummer Chalo Quintana. The band would release two critically acclaimed albums in ’85 and ’87. In 2020, bass guitarist Tony Marsico resurrected the band, with Little Caesar legends Ron Young (vocals), and Loren Molinare (lead guitars), and with newer Little Caesar guitarist Mark Tremalgia and by drummer Rob Klonel. The band retains their uniquely Latin sound, but with a bluesier tone too c/o the Little Caesar men.
Enough history then, what you want to know is this – is the album any good? HELL YES! It’s absolutely tremendous! Rock music infused with real soul is something of a rarity (well in my opinion anyway), but The Cruzados make music that is deeply soaked in soul – courtesy of Ron Young’s glorious voice of course. Kicking things off with the wonderful ‘Tilt A Whirl’, here is a band firing on all cylinders from the off, a keyboard underpins the guitars, adding an extra level of melody to proceedings, it’s a hugely impressive opening salvo.
‘Across This Ghost Town’ has a lazy sauntering feel, the band simply grooving along, cool female backing vocals are a nice touch here, complimenting Ron’s potent voice beautifully. ‘Nine Million Tears’ features a driving riff, and a rock-solid pulsing rhythm courtesy of the rhythm section, it’s a real foot stamping number, effortlessly cool. The title track has a sort of stuttering riff, and a dancing beat, that accelerates into a full throttled chorus, it reminds me of the ‘Stones at their best in many ways.
‘Son Of The Blues’ is another hip shaking groover, it’s the sort of thing Billy Gibbons and ZZ Top do so well, and Loren Molinare and Tito Lavirra prove to be a sublimely effective pairing here, Loren playing some sweet slide guitar throughout. ‘Sad Sadie’ instantly brings to mind classic Faces, it’s one of those beautifully melancholic numbers that just makes you feel wistful, simply lovely.
‘Long Black Car’ picks the pace up again, this could be classic Little Caesar, the band cruising along with a swaggering ease, it’s a boogie number that is purely a feel-good song, just marvellous! Next up is ‘Let Me Down’ which is a fast paced almost country rockin’ number, simple yet eminently effective. ‘Wing & A Prayer’ keeps up the urgent pace, it’s a short sharp shock of a number that blitzes along with a breathless feel.
’54 Knockouts’ is a (forgive the pun) punchy and stamping number with thumping groove and some tasty guitarwork, with what sounds like a nice rasping sax almost buried in the mix – but still noticeable. The album closes with ‘Rock This Boat’, a song that creeps up on you, building from a truly subtle beginning, before exploding into a full-bodied riff, with a guest harmonica almost counterpointing Ron’s vocal. It’s a fabulously frenetic way to close out the album, the band clearly having a ball.
It’s The Cruzados Jim, but not as we know ‘em, but a very welcome return it is too. I love this album, and I’m certain you will too! Essential stuff!