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Cruzados - She's Automatic! Award winner

She's Automatic
by Chris Hicklin at 18 April 2022, 11:31 AM

CRUZADOS are a band with a storied history, the were born from the ashes of LA Latino-Punk outfit THE PLUGZ who first surfaced in the late 70s. After the recruitment of Tony Marsico on bass the band were featured heavily on the soundtrack of cult 80s sci-fi satire movie Repo Man. In 1984 they officially abandoned THE PLUGZ in favour of THE CRUZADOS (now having dropped the “the”) and released two well received albums supported by tours with some big 80s names such as FLEETWOOD MAC and INXS, the band can even be seen in the opening credits to the bruising classic Patrick Swayze action movie Roadhouse, but sadly the pressures of the business got too much, and they split soon after. The unfortunate deaths of several members of the original line-up, and the non-involvement of original singer Tito Larriva make a complete reunion impossible, but Tony Marsico has assembled a new band under the same name using some musicians from another LA based band LITTLE CAESAR and recruited a host of guest stars from acts such as LOS LOBOS to enable him to release this rather splendid comeback effort.

First thing to note is that this band does not sound a lot like THE PLUGZ, or indeed even the original THE CRUZADOS very much. The Latin influences are still, there but less obvious, the snarly DIY punk attitude of THE PLUGZ is also less prevalent, giving way to a more polished and traditional Rock ‘n Roll sound with some Blues, Garage Rock, Country and even a little Gospel influence in there. Ron Young has a super Rock voice that can handle anything the band throw at him, while new recruits Loren Molinare and Mark Tremalgia are session level guitar players capable of performing multiple styles in total comfort.

I have no idea what the lyrics to opening track “Tilt a Whirl” are all about, but it’s a quality start with a classic Richie Valens type Rock and Roll guitar riff and a commitment and verve that sounds like a band that could have been playing together for decades rather than for just one album. “Across This Ghost Town” grooves along nicely, and with some very soulful, gospel influenced backing vocals and a rocking guitar solo it could be at home on a Tom Petty album. “Nine Million Tears” is a more propulsive track, with a rock-solid guitar riff and pounding rhythm from drummer Rob Klonel. I was very impressed with the guitar solo on this one which is Classic Rock with a few fast picked Latin flourishes.

Title track “She’s Automatic” is just dripping with Buddy Holly, liberally borrowing its riff from “Not Fade Away,” but hey, it’s an iconic sound and they would not be the first band to incorporate it into a new track. It’s a hip-shaking, foot stomping jam that will unquestionably get the audience up on their feet and grooving. “Son of the Blues” brings a Southern Rock flavour, with some wonderful slide guitar and a traditional Blues shuffle, think ZZ TOP. This continues into Sad Sadie which had a real classic EAGLES vibe to it, especially in the little lead guitar flourishes that pepper the song.

We have now three songs that follow a similar path, “Long Black Car” is a pacey, Blues-based track, while “Let Me Down” and “Wing and A Prayer” pick up the pace even further, both grabbing that Boogie and Rockabilly style by the throat and dragging it into the present. Things get a little more brooding and drowsier on “54 Knockouts” as LOS LOBOS’ Steve Berlin delivers a downright sleazy baritone sax part, while Honky-Tonk pianos plonk away in the background as the song cycles through key changes. This just leaves time for album-closer “Rock That Boat” which sets out on a path of slow, gravelly vocals and wistful harmonica. But you just know this track is going to explode into life before long, which it obligingly does.

The recording of the album is frankly excellent, as it should be with Bruce Witkin at the helm, who has produced albums for the star-studded Joe Perry/Alice Cooper/Johnny Depp project HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES. Much of the album was recorded live without click track, with each musician in an isolation booth, but all playing at the same time. This is an efficient way to record, but only if you are a superb musician, if not it takes ten times as long and comes out ten times as badly. Luckily all involved here are accomplished professionals, and this method of recording lends an urgency to the resulting output, but also brings a natural feel, with everybody relaxed and working in unison. I have to say it isn’t the genre of music I would typically be drawn to, but it is just quality writing and workmanship throughout, infectiously likeable and lifted my day no end. Dripping with authentic Southern and Californian sounds, if you walked into the Titty Twister Bar in “From Dusk till Dawn” this is the band you’d want to see playing.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Tilt a Whirl
2. Across This Ghost Town
3. Nine Million Tears
4. She's Automatic
5. Son of The Blues
6. Sad Sadie
7. Long Black Car
8. Let Me Down
9. Wing and A Prayer
10. 54 Knockouts
11. Rock That Boat
Tony Marsico - Bass
Ron Young - Vocals
Loren Molinare - Guitar
Mark Tremalgia - Guitar
Rob Klonel - Drums
Record Label: Deko Entertainment


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