Numero Group’s Asterisk imprint is a custom fit for a project like Los Nombres. Rather than releasing a straight reissue of the long-forgotten band’s self-titled sole LP, a late career affair steeped in edge-erasing disco polish, the Chicago label sticks true to their crate-digging bona fides by compiling earlier singles incarnations of the album’s track list from the band’s salad years. Most of these cuts still carry the stamp of heavy studio production, but they also spell out the eclectic specifics of Los Nombres’ influences as well as the circuitous, dues-paying path of the band’s recording efforts on telltale micro-budget labels like Boddie and Day-Wood.
Launched in the late sixties by a trio of Puerto Rican teenagers in the tiny burg of Lorain, OH, Los Nombres followed the general garage band trajectory typical of so many of its peers. Several name and personnel changes and sporadic intersections with a rotating selection of recording studios, venues and gigs eventually led to little of what could be deemed success in the larger scheme. No singular story there, nor are erstwhile leader/vocalist Willie Rodriguez’s dogged attempts over the decades to right that course. Add to it all the arguable irony of this particular band never making a lasting name for itself, and it’s easy to ascertain why the folks at Numero consider them worthy of reconsideration.
“Loving You” represents the first of a number of mixed bags with Rodriguez’s pipes making the most of forgettable heart-on-sleeve lyrics. The band, meanwhile, turns in serviceable pop-soul accompaniment and harmonies spiced by sparkly keyboards, echo-treated flute and member Sixto Barrios’ sturdy bass line. Conga-spurred from the go, “To Be Sure” could easily work as the soundtrack to a vintage Bond film title sequence while “Cold Wine” shines a bright beam on the Santana albums that were contemporaneous staples in the Los Nombres listening diet via swirling organ, riffing horns and a Latinized lead guitar progression. Sax alternates with guitar through a kinetic series of compact solos across a chugging groove once again anchored by Barrios’ stout strings.
The band’s Latin side gets greater play on the Fania-ready boogaloo “Todos”, a tune they would revisit throughout the years, but the remainder of the set leans back largely on the soul and funk facets of their repertoire. “Here We Go Again” hinges another lackluster page of lyrics on a densely packed pop soul backdrop though “Trivialities” scores major points on the basis of a fuzz-keyboard center that sounds uncannily like Anatolian rock god Ersen in its opening salvo. “Untitled”, an instrumental, also inches into the win column on the merit of a tight Barrios-plus-conga-driven rhythm and a final act key change into salsa territory. The tracks are fun, but hardly revelatory and taken in sum, effectively echo manager Diego Martinez’s summation of Los Nombres appeal, “You might out-play us, but you couldn’t out-entertain us.”