Santana - All That I Am

2006-03-30 07:56

Almost invariably, collaborations like this fall far short of his solo and band work past and present. On All that I am, for example, the luscious "Hermes", "El Fuego" or "Con Santana" are vibrant and energetic panoramas of sound and rhythm.

Meanwhile, the tracks featuring either Michelle Branch , Mary J. Blige, Sean Paul, Joss Stone, and whoever else finds themselves on the guestlist are staid, unimaginative and feel claustrophobic.

The collaborations simply fall flat compared to the original band's work. Santana's last two releases felt dangerously mercantile - to the point where most of the old-school Santana legion may understandably have felt hard done by.

Still, if you think Carlos Santana can be summarised by Supernatural (1999), and Shaman (2002), well, you'd be wrong.. The truth is, Santana is - or was - closer to defining the term "world musician" than anything on your local store's specialist shelf.

Presumably responsible for cross-breeding Latino guitar styles with rock music back in the sixties, Santana continued to similarly reinvent concepts of blues and jazz well into the late seventies. Albums and live shows after that placated the Santana faithful well, until the massive commercial success of eight-time Grammy-winning "Supernatural" spoilt the party.
Since then, those collaborations have been defeating the point of Carlos Santana (and the band Santana) as true crossover artists. They've produced work far more within the guest collaborators realm of sound instead, with Santana's influence feels very forced, so they've seldom, if ever, worked.

On Supernatural, for example, the outstanding musical collaboration was with Musiq. On All that I Am, that accolade could go to the Steven Tyler co-op "Just Feel Better", but mainly because the Aerosmith front man is so charismatic anyway.

The rest were a bit of a disappointment. Once was a great breakaway; twice was a companion piece cash-in; third time is an insult. Santana would be better off going back to just playing the stuff that he became famous for - and that's not this kind of insipid pop trash.

- Anton Marshall


...his 38th album often sounds like the world's greatest latin-rock guitarist jamming along to the radio.
- Steve Lowe for The Guardian

...what was once a great American band steps closer to becoming a permanent gimmick.
- Tom Moon for Rolling Stone

Why Carlos Santana continues to stuff his new albums to the gills with guest superstar artists is beyond reason. It's unnecessary, and probably damaging to an otherwise distinguished history.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.