Flaco Jiménez only made two albums for the Arista imprint, so “complete” in this case isn’t as impressive as the Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis. But whatever. Fact is, these two recordings, 1994’s self-titled and 1996’s Buena Suerte Senorita are as impressive as 20 songs have the right to be and, frankly, these are two of his finest hours and among the best he did during one of his best decades as a recording artist.
An ill-fated stay at Warner Bros. resulted in 1992’s Partners which saw him pairing nicely with Stephen Stills, Linda Ronstadt and others and the same can be said of 1994’s Arista debut. The single “Sequuro Que Hell Yes” is sung by the Mavericks’ Raul Malo. Though there were high hopes for that track—and a video—the single tanked, although the friendship between the Cuban-born singer and the accordion king was strong enough that Jiménez lent his talents to 1996’s “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”, a major track for the band.
The material on the Arista debut is not at fault: the Buck Owens number “Open Up Your Heart” shines, as does the closing “Cat Walk”. An impressive cast of players, namely guitarist Lee Roy Parnell and keyboardist Reese Wyans help buoy the track and its good-hearted nature alone might have made it something of hit had the fates had other things in mind. But it wasn’t to be and so we’re left with a collection of ten tunes that are memorable and sound virtually untouched by the hands of time. Yeah, it won a Grammy, but it didn’t win Jiménez the country audience his label had hoped for.
The 1996 follow-up features an all-time Jiménez staple, “Borracho #1” that also sets the bar for the rest of the record. The titular number, “Dos Cosas” and “Swiss Waltz” all further cement the record in our memories. Like its predecessor this affair failed to connect with a wide audience although as is so often the case the fault lies not with the art but with the audience that was too blind to see what treasures were waiting for it.
Taken together this pair of recordings is a great window into the impressive catalog of a performer who is sadly outside the mainstream, but who remains a deeply loved and revered artist by those who have taken the time to really hear his work. Jiménez would wind out the decade with a short stay at Virgin that led to tepid results but bounced back in 2000 with the superior Sleepytown. It was an indication of something that you might have suspected all along—the this artist has always done his best work while few were looking or when the stakes as weren’t as high as during his stay at Arista.
In the end, we have a nice pair brought together on a single disc and illuminated by lovely liner notes from Randy Poe. Start with these recordings or start with others but get started digging Flaco Jiménez—and soon!
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