A co-worker expressed the opinion while listening to Malo’s first album that perhaps the worst thing for both Malo and Santana were the Santana brothers themselves. The need for Carlos and Jorge to ruin the groove set by the rhythm section with a guitar solo plagued each band as time went on. Their audience loved it but soon it became formulaic and an instant cliché for Chicano bands for years to come. But when the style was fresh, everyone around the world wanted to sound like them, including the artists themselves who originally influenced the Chicano sound. Notice how many artists, including Miles Davis, The Rolling Stones, The Fania All-Stars and The Isley Brothers, started to sound like Santana, Malo & El Chicano at one point or another.
Malo’s self-titled album came out in 1972. By then, Carlos was world famous and jamming with the likes of John McLaughlin and Miles Davis. Malo came out of two San Francisco bands-- The Malibus and Naked Lunch (named after the infamous William Burroughs book). There were a few differences between Malo and Santana. For one, Malo had a horn section, giving them that Chicago/Blood Sweat & Tears sound. The other difference is that along with the jams, they had songs. Songs like "Café" and "Pana" are still the blueprints of Chicano Rock today, from the house band at Rick’s Burgers in Alhambra to Carlos Santana's multi-Grammy award winning Supernatural. Like most Chicano bands, Malo was a mixed race band and a hodgepodge of both Latin and Anglo influences. You can hear flashes of Miles Davis In A Silent Way on "Just Say Goodbye" and Joe Bataan’s influence on "Nena."
Malo’s finest moment on this album was their biggest hit. "Suavecito" is considered by many to be the Chicano National Anthem. It was probably the song playing in the background of many make out sessions and the reason why some of us were conceived. The lyrics of the song came from a poem percussionist Richard Bean wrote for a girl in high school. The infamous, “La, la-la, laaaah ah-ah-ah Laaaa-ah la-la, laaaa-ah-ah” that goes throughout the song is more famous than the lyrics themselves. Malo went on to record four more albums on Warner Bros, but none top the first one. It’s a quintessential Chicano album.
I love this clip of Malo on Youtube. Check it out: