Raised in Lorain, Ohio’s Puerto Rican community––which swelled thanks to late 1940s employment shortage at the city’s National Tube Company––brothers Willie and Nelson Marquez came of age listening to and playing music with pal Pepe Rivera. By the time trio were in deep in their shared adolescence, they whipped out regular jam sessions with borrowed or sub par instruments and, with guitarist Richard Velazquez along for the ride, the four friends––calling themselves the Tidal Waves––became one hot dance band. By 1968 the group was a multicultural phenomenon, changing its name to the Pacesetters and getting furious with funk and opening for B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and others.
Before long the group had cut tracks at Cleveland’s legendary Boddie Recording Company, and changed its name from the Pacesetters to the 7 Nombres, then, in quick succession, to Los Nombres. The equipment remained ragged and worn although spirits were still high as the band entered the 1970s, still intact and determined as ever. With a seemingly endless series of singles emerging, the group finally released a full-length in 1977.
This is not that album.
Instead, we have what amounts to a recreation of that album, featuring the single versions of many of the songs, the way they were first heard by Ohio audiences in the 1960s and 1970s. The results? Mixed. The Spanish language “Todos” is a sublime slice of Latin fun that could have easily been a minor––or major––national hit, written specifically for the dance floor. (The lyrics translate as “All Los Nombres like to have a good time/the 7 Nombres invite you to dance”.) An incomparable organ figure gives the track extra bite and appeal.
The bass figure of “Full Of Love” buoys the otherwise forgettable bit of tepid Latin-tinged psychedelia while the brass heard on “Loving You” more than makes up for its too-smooth-for-its-own-good lyrics. “Here We Go Again” is best heard on a transistor radio, but “Trivialities”, with its space odyssey fuzz guitar and triumphant horns would be the best thing here, coming off like Curtis Mayfield on a Latin soul binge, were it not for the extended soul jam “Untitled Instrumental”.
The ‘70s saw various members come and go––Pepe Rivera left for Chicago, other members were lost to the draft, health issues cropped up for some, although in 1987 a 23-member version of the group recorded a new version of “Todos”, before finally fizzling out for good. Vocalist Willie Marquez died two decades later from diabetes-related complications but his passing has done nothing to dim Los Nombres’ legacy, particularly in Ohio where the group is remembered for its indefatigable live sets, replete with entertaining antics and fine musicianship.
Of the seemingly innumerable “lost” acts that find their way into the contemporary market, Los Nombres is not one that’s likely to rise above curious footnote status. There are some decent––not great––songs represented here, and some respectable musicianship. But, had the outfit made it outside its immediate region, its life in the larger world would doubtless have been limited.