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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