Conceived as a supposed 'love letter' to his fans
Chris Jones 2008
This album, conceived as a supposed 'love letter' to his fans by Carlos himself, has an odd title. For while only an ignoramus would deny that Sanatana's (the man, not the band) guitar has journeyed through dimensions as diverse as pop, cosmic jazz, latino funk and even folk, this compilation, while containing some absolute gems, barely scratches the surface of a multi-facted career.
Split into two themed discs - the first being vocal tracks, the second, instrumental - you get the feeling that this is aimed at younger fans who may have come to his work via the star-studded, career resurrecting albums, Supernatural and Shaman. While he's got access to a back catalogue that runs over three labels from 1968 to the present day, he's concentrated mainly on work from the 80s and 90s with a smattering of 70s gems. This means thaat you get a slew of pleasant latino-flavoured pop rock, sung with little distinctiveness unless the timeline gets pushed back to albums like Moonflower or Festival (both from 1977) where a lost beauty like The River - a gorgeous piece of mystic soul - are sung by Greg Walker.
But for every cheesy track from albums as poor as Milagro you still get incandescent moments such as the oft-overlooked Blues For Salvador. Sure he could play the fusion-meets-Tito-Puente of Bailando/Aquatic Park in his sleep; but it still sounds great, especially when propelled by Chester Thompson's drums.
On the instrumental side, things get even trickier. Anyone expecting Carlos' really adventurous edge will be disappointed. No stuff from his Alice Coltrane or John McLaughlin periods here. In fact there's an amount of revisionism going on. Few now seem to remember that Santana was a band until the mid-70s, supposedly only taking the guitarist's name for simplicity's sake. As if to reiterate his ownership of the brand Carlos only allows ONE track from this golden early period: Sama Pa Ti sticking up like a rather beautiful sore thumb amongst some material which comes close to 'new age' at times. But again, you are reminded that it's not all been downhill. As if to hammer home how frustrating the choices are we get a version of Rodrigo's En Arajuez Con Tu Amore from the Brothers album that should never have been rediscovered, while Luz, Amor Y Vida from the same is excellent. And it's always good to be reminded of anything from the Amigos album, especially the crowd-pleaser Europa. It's just a shame that Carlos (or his current label) feel the need to be such heavy-handed editors, removing periods of work that put him up there, amongst the guitar greats.
Anyone less than totally familiar with the man's vast career would come away with a rather anodine view of someone who, when matched by talents that pushed him out of his comfort zone, created in some of the finest guitar music on the planet.