Diómedes Díaz

2 en 1: El Mundo/El Cocha Molina

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The Sony label began a "bargain" reissue policy in the late '90s with much of its Latin material from the previous decades, if a compact disc priced at more than twice what the two albums included would have originally cost can be considered a good deal. Much of the music in this series easily transcends hack reissue treatment; it is vital, extremely valuable, and for the most part unknown outside of the Latin audience. The worst part of the deal is the lack of information included by the company. This pairing of two of the finest Diomedes Diaz recordings is typical in that the already sparsely annotated sleeves are shrunken down to postage size. No pundits revisit the material to philosophize in liner notes. Listeners can count their blessings in the form of the list of 19 song titles and songwriters. As Peggy Lee would say, "That's all there is." Diaz was an innovator in the vallenato style, basically a dazzling modernization of Colombian folk songs. One parallel would be Tex-Mex and loud electric combos evolving out of the basically acoustic conjunto sound -- the heavy presence of accordion in both styles is a natural link. Vallenato has a creative playfulness, though, that is more like the folk-rock records of the '60s. These are crisply recorded sessions in which there is always some kind of percussion section waiting to be picked apart into components -- with no help from liner notes in doing so, as already established. There is one type of drum that makes a little whooping sound, similar to a tabla. That type of effect combined with a busy electric bassist is just one example of what makes these tracks so groovy. The vocals are excellent, too, Diaz taking on a number of issues from romance to politics, and thankfully not leaving out either chickens or the torment of "Alma Herida," the "wounded soul." Half the CD is a collaboration with ace accordion maestro Colacho Mendoza, while the other seems to sport a younger accordion player who is even more daring.