8th April, 1995

When the Hot Latin chart goes norteño, it goes norteño all the way. Forget the politesse of Bronco's string arrangement, or La Mafia's own concessions to electronic modernism — this is the raw stuff, accordion and rhythm section and a singer gritando puro campesino. It's a rare example of a live hit, always unusual outside of 70s AOR, and the fact that it was only on the top of the chart for a week detracts nothing from the fact that hey, it was at the top of the chart at all.

But it's not just the crowd noise that makes this the rawest, most rock & roll record we've encountered yet in our journey. The stiff polka-descended rhythms might not sound very raucous, but the accordion positively shreds, and the gritos aren't a million miles away from Joe Strummer's Peter Pan crows on "London Calling," or from cowboy whoops presaging heavy sales at the saloon and a gunfight in the morning. Sure, people who aren't used to norteño might mutter "Chicken Dance" to themselves, and the lyrics are very nearly simple enough to be a playground chant, but there's a magnificent energy to the song, an organic looseness that suggests that maybe more Latin Pop should have been released to radio from concert recordings.

"Toma Mi Amor" means "take my love," but the verb "tomar" ("take") is also used to mean "drink" — and La Mafia doesn't hesitate to let the suggestiveness bubble up to the surface. It's a bar-band singalong from South Texas, where bar bands are just as likely to be brown as white, and their crowds are composed of shitkickers, hard-working alcoholics, and horndogs either way.

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