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First ever career spanning
collection comes up slightly short

Santana - Ultimate Santana
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov.8, 2007

Review by Andy Argyrakis

From lighting Woodstock on fire in the summer of 69 through riding high on the charts in the subsequent decade and resurfacing in the late 1990s, Carlos Santana is one of the world's most unmistakable and enduring axe grinders. Along with his eponymously named band (who've frequently changed members and lead vocalists), he's combined rock n' soul with sizzling Latin appeal, crossing cultural and stylistic boundaries, but sewing together a remarkably consistent stream of content. And though this several decade spanning career took a few dips in the road during artistic dry spells, Santana reclaimed much of its glory years by calling upon today's current rockers to serve as lead singers on several recent singles.

For the first time to date, those original radio gems from the band's Columbia Records era and the more recent Arista albums are united on one collection, which at face value, is meant to please both factions of an exceptionally varied fan base. For the old schoolers, key cuts such as "Oye Como Va," "Black Magic Woman" and "Evil Ways" resurface with improved sound quality and all their rhythmic charm, while "Samba Pa Ti" (off 1971's classic Abraxas) showcases the strummer steeped in soloing intricacies.

The disc also flips forward for the Rob Thomas tag team "Smooth" (which put Santana back on the map), plus other key newer tracks like the rock romp "Just Feel Better" with Steven Tyler and the socially conscious "Put Your Lights On" (featuring Everlast). The smash single "The Game of Love" is also highlighted, once with its more familiar though somewhat pedestrian presentation by Michelle Branch on vocals, but again with Tina Turner's much more compelling, deep bellied soul trademark.

Though the disc focuses on all the obligatory hits, this collection falls slightly short of its Ultimate Santana moniker. For starters, it's impossible to cram any career that stretches back forty years into a single disc, followed by the fact that not a single extended jam is featured. From a marketability standpoint to casual fans, it's understandable why compilers stuck to the four minute and under formula, but to true connoisseurs, it's certainly lacking any deeper or drawn out cuts. Of course, that audience is sure to already own Santana's essential catalogue albums, in turn making this retrospective a generally fair launching pad for the beginner and a car stereo only abridged edition for the veteran

Watch Santanas' "Samba pa ti" video

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