In 1977, producer Art Brambila embarked on a project that would serve as a thank-you to labor leader Cesar Chavez, who had helped him get sponsorship for his television show, The Mean Salsa Machine. He then compiled and composed ten songs inspired by his speeches, or songs sung at rallies, and set about recording them at the famed A&M Studios. After recording the songs, they were gathered on a compilation album, which was then produced in a limited edition and given to the members of Chavez’s union. This novel record might have slipped into obscurity were it not for the house band that Brambila chose for the project, a young quartet called Los Lobos. Entitled Si Se Puede!, this little gift of gratitude was the young band’s first release, but it would be two more years when the band would reappear.
Admittedly, I don’t speak Spanish, so other than the spoken word on “De Colores” and the English song “Manana is Today,” I’m at a loss when it comes to understanding the lyrics. But like most world music, it doesn’t really matter that you don’t speak the language; the quality of the music shines through. There are moments of simple beauty, such as on “Chicanita de Aztlan” and “Sangre Antigua,” and the joyousness heard on “No No Moveran” and “Yo Estoy Con Chavez” highlight the support and love that the project intended.
It might be more of a curiosity in the band’s storied, vast discography, but Si Se Puede! is a sincere work of love, and an auspicious debut for a band that would later help to define Latino/Hispanic rock.