Except for the occasional set released by a licensing heavyweight, box sets hoping to encompass a full style of music (especially one as big as salsa) often fail before they began -- they simply don't own all of the great music to create a proper compilation. The mighty Fania label is an exception to this rule, especially for salsa. As a label, it put out much of the best of '70s salsa; as a post-millennial reissue umbrella, it gathers additional critical mass thanks to labels like Tico, Alegre, Vaya, and Inca. Surveying from the early '60s through to 1999, Salsa: A Musical History is a gargantuan display of musical might, four discs and four hours of salsa from its rudimentary but virtuosic beginnings in Spanish Harlem's post-mambo depression and stretching through the glorious and heady days of the '70s, when powerhouse orchestras with members numbering in the dozens played slick arrangements of Puerto Rican bombas or plenas and Cuban sons. The box begins exactly where it should, with tracks by the amazing Alegre All Stars and Johnny Pacheco, the latter of whom inaugurated salsa's best label in 1963 -- and christened it with a track named "Fania." The rest of the '60s appear on the first disc, including excellent material from Eddie Palmieri, Joe Cuba, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, and Willie Colón. The '70s and early '80s take up all of the second and third discs, honing in on the smooth yet freewheeling sound of modernized salsa with tracks by Orchestra Harlow, Ricardo Ray & Bobby Cruz, Celia Cruz, Ismael Miranda, Rubén Blades, and Sonora Ponceña. The '90s are summarily rounded up on the fourth disc with modern-day inheritors Frankie Ruiz and Ray Sepulveda and Tito Rojas as well as latter-day work from Barretto and Celia Cruz. Anyone who knows enough about salsa to enjoy it would love this set.