Sometimes older is better. There are musical idioms where seasoning pays off — where knowing the tradition, the literature, the ways in which things have been done simply produces better work. Case in point: Viejos Pero Sabroso, the pulsating, masterful album by Ralph Irizzary and Los Viejos De La Salsa. There are lots of humorous references to being old, but there’s nothing tired on any track. A band with total command of every aspect of salsa, Irizzary is also not averse to throwing contemporary elements into their mix: “La Cima Del Ritmo” has a rap section that is performed with total conviction, as seamlessly integrated into the tune as its razor-sharp horn section or robust coro. Reggaeton hasn’t always been a useful tool in salsa, but it works in this instance. But so does everything on this album. Listen to the crisp articulation of the coro on “Fiesta De Los Adultos.” The interplay between lead vocal and the backup is optimistic and winning, hooking up beautifully with the conjoined piano/timbales part. This is difficult music masquerading as easy music. “Se Goza Con Mi Chachacha” has beat that’s so solid and inevitable that, when the band briefly retards, it feels as if the floor has dropped out. Thankfully, they resume the gorgeous chachacha moments later. As can be expected with any album by Ralph Irizzary, there are no weak tracks. “Despues De Los 20″ features pinpoint stop time phrases and a coro that you’ll wish went on forever. You’ll hear the ghosts of a few Salsa legends on “Reunion Celestial,” and learn a lesson about rhythm in “La Clave.” I suppose that, by calendar calculation, these guys really are “viejos,” but on Viejos Pero Sabroso they’re the James Browns of Salsa, really the hardest working men in show business. This is as good a salsa album as you’re likely to find anywhere.
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