Santana: Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time

RIYL: rabies shots, “The Human Centipede,” being punched in the genitals

61JbX1SSfaL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1] Carlos Santana has claimed for years that he gets his artistic marching orders from the angel Metatron, but after listening to Guitar Heaven, even some of his staunchest fans may be forced to admit the possibility that Carlos has been dipping a little too deeply into his stash of Santana DVX — either that, or Metatron is actually a vengeful ghost who hates Santana, classic rock, and the record-buying public.

Equal parts cynically commercial and shockingly misguided, Guitar Heaven takes a dozen classic rock tracks and turns them into Golden Throats-style shotgun blasts of unintentional comedy. The idea of Santana recording glossy, lukewarm covers of “Whole Lotta Love,” “Smoke on the Water,” and “Bang a Gong” sounds senseless enough, but Metatron’s plan for the album – subtitled The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time – came with a fiendish twist. Each of these unnecessary covers, you see, comes bundled with a vocal cameo from a singer who, in most cases, has absolutely no business performing the song in question.

Time and again, unstoppable chutzpah meets immutable rock ‘n’ roll classics. Chris Cornell wails all over a limp “Whole Lotta Love.” Chris Daughtry clenches his teeth through a neutered version of Def Leppard’s “Photograph.” Rob Thomas – Rob Thomas! – steps in front of the mic for “Sunshine of Your Love.” Nas and Janelle Monae collaborate on the clattering horror that is this album’s take on “Back in Black.” (Sample line: “Carlos on the guitar, relentless / Makes me visualize the clubs when they spin this.” Really.) Gavin Rossdale adds nothing to Santana’s sax-frosted arrangement for “Bang a Gong.” Jacoby Dix of Papa Roach is somehow allowed to sing “Smoke on the Water.” So on and so forth. Perhaps no album since the Shaggs’ Philosophy of the World has presented such a stunningly ill-conceived and consistently outmatched union of performers and material.

About the only thing here that makes sense is Joe Cocker showing up to lend his still-strong vocals to “Little Wing,” which suits Santana’s style and Cocker’s voice so well that you wish they’d done an entire album together. It wouldn’t have made Clive Davis’ eyes light up, but at least it wouldn’t have included Pat Monahan of Train singing Van Halen’s “Dance the Night Away,” or Scott Stapp – Scott Stapp! – dropping a deuce on “Fortunate Son.” If you happen to see Metatron, please punch him in the kidneys for us. (Arista 2010)

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Santana: Supernatural, Legacy Edition

RIYL: Eric Clapton, Dave Mathews Band, Ozomatli

This Legacy Edition re-release of Santana’s 1999 smash-hit, Grammy Award-winning Album of the Year ups the ante by remastering the original album and adding a second disc of bonus tracks that should delight any fan of the original. The bonus disc has outtakes, remixes and unreleased material with several of the same guests from the original album. There’s also a 24-page booklet with rare photos and a 2,000 word essay by Hal Miller on the album’s creation and significance.

The remastered original sounds great, with Santana’s hot, melty licks singing through the mix of warm bass, dynamic percussion, horns, vocals – the guitar legend is a Jedi Master at weaving his lines into a song without stepping on anyone else. Songs like “Put your Lights On” with Everlast and “Smooth” with Rob Thomas received so much airplay that some people may never want to hear them again. But this shouldn’t overshadow the other great tracks on here.

“(Da Le) Yaleo” features Santana wailing at his best, no pop restriction here. “Love of My Life” with Dave Matthews and Carter Beauford is a soulful gem that makes you wish DMB would add a lead guitarist. For those that don’t care for Matchbox 20, “Africa Bamba” is a beautiful track that is truly smooth, without the pop sheen. Lauren Hill & Cee-Lo help Santana explore hip-hop flavor on “Do You Like the Way,” but it’s “Maria Maria” with the Product G&B that really has classic staying power. With its catchy hooks, soulful vocals and mix of both acoustic and electric virtuoso guitar, it’s no surprise that this tune is the one that’s still a mainstay in Santana’s live repertoire. “Wishing It Was” with Eagle-Eye Cherry is another tune that continues to resonate with deeper substance than the bigger radio hits, with its contemplative lyrics and memorable licks. Underrated closer “The Calling” is an epic blues with Santana and Eric Clapton trading licks on a great finale.

One of the highlights of the bonus disc is “The Calling Jam,” also featuring Clapton, and one of seven previously unreleased tracks out of the 11 on the disc. A cover of Cuban band Irakere’s “Bacalao Con Pan” has smoking leads in a Latin rock setting, while the single “Angel Love (Come For Me)” features a horn section and Santana playing sweet leads behind the vocals. This is something most guitarists don’t know how to do. They should listen to Carlos to learn. “Rain Down on Me” with Dave Matthews and Carter Beauford might even be a better song than their collaboration on “Love of My Life,” with Dave singing in a bluesier vibe that resonates well with Santana’s guitar. “Exodus/Get Up Stand Up” is a hot tribute to Bob Marley, while a cover of Lighthouse’s 1971 hit “One Fine Morning” is another high-energy winner. “Maria Maria (Pumpin’ Dolls Club Mix)” provides an alternate dance-oriented approach, while “Corazon Espinado (Spanish Dance Remix)” offers another take on the original album track with Mana.

There’s an uplifting spiritual vibe throughout both discs, along with a great diversity of material and some of Carlos’ most tasteful playing. All of which makes this set a definitive keeper. (Sony Legacy 2010)