Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Nuestras Mejores Cumbias [Globo, 1989]
Where the competing Fiesta Vallenata has the imprimatur of the world-music good guys at GlobeStyle and Shanachie, this Colombian compilation comes from an RCA subsidiary--two stocking-clad gams stretch ceilingward through a field of balloons on the cover. But I swear it wasn't antiliberal tendencies that induced me to put Fiesta Vallenata's raggedy-ass polkas in the hall while carrying this jaunty, chintzy subsalsa to friends' birthday parties. It was spontaneous attraction. I've since learned that accordion-based vallenata is cowboy music turned cocaine-lord music, while clarinet-hooked cumbia is a mulatto urban style with a longer pop history, and I'm glad I chose the right side. But if the cocaine lords seize cumbia (and for all I know they already have), I bet what makes it jaunty, though maybe not what makes it chintzy, will still liven up a party. A-