Spanish Harlem Orchestra brings back the classic sound of 1970s New York salsa on 2004's ACROSS 110TH STREET. Tight charts set congas and timbales weaving a polyrhythmic web under wailing, punchy brass in old-school fashion, with excellent vocalists Ray De La Paz, Willie Torres, and Marco Bermudez switching off duties on the mic. It's hard to go wrong when the material is by Tito Puente ("Cuando Te Vea"), Hector Rivera ("Bailadores"), and Raul Marrero ("La Hija De Lola"), and the band has such standout musicians as pianist Oscar Hernandez and salsa trombonist Jimmy Bosch in its ranks. But the real treat here is the presence of Ruben Blades, who returns to the salsa stylings of his early career with a vengeance. Blades appears on four tracks here, and his phrasing and intonation is immediately appealing. The fun, broadly humorous Blades-penned "Tu Te Lo Pee Pee" is added as a bonus track, yet it ends up being one of the record's highlights. Though it is a bit of a throwback, ACROSS 110TH STREET has exuberance, tight musicianship, and groove. Compared to most of the commercially tailored Latin pop on the contemporary charts, this album feels like a blast of fresh air.