Marc Anthony is the world's best-selling salsa artist, but his English-language debut, "Marc Anthony" (Columbia), shouldn't be misconstrued as just one more canny crossover move in the current explosion of Latin music.

After all, Anthony's the quintessential Nuyorican, the bilingual son of Puerto Rican immigrants who grew up in Spanish Harlem. Before becoming a salsa sensation in 1993, he'd performed on a number of generic dance tracks in English but had yet to find his true voice. Anyone remember 1991's "Ride on the Rhythm"?

Or Paul Simon's "The Capeman," the troubled Broadway musical in which Anthony earned rave reviews for his evocative portrayal of the young double murderer, Sal Agron? The singer's sweet, soaring tenor and emotional delivery earned him "voice of an angel" accolades. On "Marc Anthony," the popular salsaro turns pop star with a collection that emphasizes slow, sometimes smoldering romantic ballads.

There are a few up-tempo, Latin-tinged tunes thrown in, along with Spanish-language versions of two songs, but only one track, the elegant Emilio Estefan-penned and produced "De la Vuelta," that's representative of what Anthony's been doing for the last six years.

The album's first single, the upbeat lover's query, "I Need to Know" (reprised later in Spanish as "Dimelo"), has a salsa flavor and light Latin percussion that also shows up in "That's Okay" and, less convincingly, in the Rodney Jerkins-produced "She's Been Good to Me." Jerkins is hot on the R&B and hip-hop circuit, but Latin rhythm is not his preserve, even when the song's re-rendered as "Como Ella Me Quiere a Mi."

However, the core of the album is ballads, and Anthony's got some heavy hitters on deck. Walter Afanasieff, best known as a writer and producer for Mariah Carey, contributes three power tracks: "Am I the Only One," which alternates reflective verses with a soaring chorus as it dissects a failed relationship; "Don't Let Me Leave"; and "My Baby You," a sweet paean to parenthood and Anthony's daughter, Arianna.

Sometimes Anthony delivers songs over supple acoustic guitars--the breathless "How Could I" and the elegantly swaying "When I Dream at Night"--and he summons both the exhilaration of infatuation on "You Sang to Me" and the melancholy ache of regret on "Love Is All." Like Cupid's arrows, the songs on "Marc Anthony" are aimed at the heart--and for the most part, they're on target.

(To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8172.)