I just downloaded the new album from Spanish Harlem Orchestra, United We Swing. Salseros, you must get this– it is a non-stop jam that seems made just for dancers. Not only is the music infectiously danceable and fun, SHO is out on a mission to get you out of the floor. They are constantly shouting out to the rumberos and salseros in their songs, and have even dedicated on of their songs to us (Salsa Pa’l Bailador). It certainly makes this salsera feel loved and catered to.

This is a “listen all the way through” sort of album. In other words, I wasn’t tempted to skip any of the songs. However, I was often unable to resist the temptation to get out of my chair in front of the computer and dance around the house!

United We Swing immediately gets you tapping your feet and shimmying your shoulders with SHO Intro, walking us through a number of melodies; bandleader Oscar Hernandez introduces the members of the band, (including one of my favorites, trombonist Jimmy Bosch) giving me the feeling that I was at a live concert.

Highlights for me include En el Tiempo del Palladium, a sinewy cha-cha-cha dedicated to the golden era of the Palladium that had me cha-cha-cha-ing all over my living room. Hard-driving mambo Ahora Si is an ode to good music, dancers (“para ti rumbero!”), and the party. Que Bonito is a sweetly sung salsa romantica with lovely harmonies that- surprise!- breaks into a cumbia towards the end. It is playful details such as this that makes SHO’s music so fun to dance to. Plena con Sabor, is just as the title says, a flavorful plena. I usually clear the floor when merengues come on– not that I have anything in particular against merengue, but it tends to bring the gropers* out– but this tasty song just might get me on my feet against all better judgement. The romantic instrumental and touching dedication of Danzon for My Father would be great for a slow ballroom rumba (something for everyone– even the ballroom dancers!) or cha-cha-cha.

I’ve gushed so much about this album that I’m going to point some of its minor flaws (for balance). There were a few moments where I had musical deja vu, thinking to myself “hmm, I feel like I’ve already heard this.” For example, the opening of Ahora Si reminded me a bit of El Gran Combo’s Me Libere. References to other songs is something that can be very effective, but this didn’t seem intentional. Finally, a cameo by Paul Simon on vocals wasn’t enough to make me love the final song Late in the Evening/Tarde en la Noche. It was a bit too jazzy for my taste, and also salsa sung in English just doesn’t work for me (with the exception of Peter Rodriguez’s Fania recording of I Like It Like That).

In short, if you are looking for an album that was created with the salsa dancer in mind, you will not be disappointed. I hope to hear a lot of these songs in heavy rotation in the clubs.

*Groper: guys who don’t really know how to dance but take advantage of the relatively easy steps of the merengue to get a little too close for a salsera’s comfort and dignity.

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