Picks and Pans Review: The Best of La Bamba

UPDATED 08/22/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/22/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

Various artists

There is the school of thought, of course, that views even one chorus of La Bambaas plenty. But this likable collection offers 10 versions of the song, picked by novelist Tom Miller from more than 150 recorded possibilities. He includes the 1959 Ritchie Valens record that turned what had been a Mexican folk tune into a pop hit. More interesting are the variations. While Miller left out Weird Al Yankovic's parody, Lasagna, there is a version by the Crickets, whose founder, Buddy Holly, died in the 1959 plane crash that killed Valens and the Big Bopper. The Crickets wrote new English lyrics that created a frothy ditty: "They call my baby LaBamba...I wanna see her at the lake now/ She's a heavy, heavy date now." There are also more traditional versions by two Mexican groups, an a cappella doo-wop variation by Big Daddy, a Muzak-y instrumental by the Ventures and hard-rock interpretations by Tonio K. and Drive. Then there is a recording by the Rice University Marching Owl Band, which may, depending on your mood, make you want to either wave the Mexican flag, go out for a hot dog or run an option play against Baylor. The major surprise, however, is a reverential treatment by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the tone of which would suggest that the lyrics are not—as they are—about dancing and flirting but about, say, building a church or, at least, holding an important bingo game. (Rhino)

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