Santana: Multi-Dimensional Warrior

The concept and title of this two CD anthology simultaneously sugarcoats and dilutes Carlos Santana’s circuitous career path. Designed and aimed at listeners who (re) discovered the man with his mainstream resurgence in 1999, it will fill that void and still leave those consumers ignorant of why he deserved a chance at commercial redemption.

Multi-Dimensional Warrior is divided into one disc, which contains all vocal tracks spanning Santana’s work on three different labels (where Winwood sound-alike Alex Ligertwood is the only truly distinctive singer apart from Gregg Rolie (the main vocalist of the original Santana band), while the second CD contains nothing but instrumentals, covering essentially the same period though culling from different albums to present what is ostensibly a broader view of the artist.

The mildly evocative likes of “Aquamarine” and “Full Moon” may surprise those only familiar with Santana via Sorcerer. Sunny as are those tracks, the guitarist playing sonorous lines within arrangements including percussion and keyboards similar to the Latin influence of his earliest and latest work, the music is ultimately superficial, pretty at best. The final cut, “Victory Is Won,” is a stark contrast.

It’s not clear exactly how much so till mid-disc when “Samba Pa Ti,” from the second Santana album Abraxas, appears that you realize how wanting is what precedes and follows. The depth of feeling in Santana’s playing is double-fold and he avoids the predictable singsong quality that populates most of the fourteen tracks on this half of the collection; the depth of feeling is no doubt in part because Carlos is playing with musicians that challenge him, not merely defer to him,

“Europa” is a similarly styled instrumental from six years later and it aptly demonstrates how the passion and originality that permeated Carlos Santana’s music during the days of his original band and even through his jazz-influenced period so fully transcends the easy-listening middle-of the road approach of recent releases like Shaman and Supernatural.

Much like Eric Clapton, who dug himself into a rut from which he is only now escaping, Carlos Santana made the decision to forego an adventurous musical path some time ago, thereby rendering this anthology a document of how to play it safe.

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