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[whitespace] Carlos Santana Finger Exercise: Guitarist Carlos Santana has never lost his fire.

On 'Supernatural,' Carlos Santana balances sin and redemption

By Nicky Baxter

WITHOUT Carlos Santana, there would be no such animal as "Latino rock." Santana's incendiary melding of African rhythms, blues and rock essentially altered the sound (and color) of rock when he launched his propulsive polyrhythmic brand of Chicano soul in the late 1960s. Since those early albums, the Carlos Santana Band has sought to strike a balance between the divine and the bottom line; when it works, it works divinely. On Supernatural, Santana's inaugural effort for Clive Davis' Arista label, the soul fire still burns brightly. Flanked by a wealth of guest artists (Dave Matthews, Everlast, Lauryn Hill and Mexican pop group Mana), Santana and band churn out an exceptional set of tunes.

"Love of My Life" starts with a funky drum pattern, then slips gracefully into a simmering groove highlighted by Matthews' sinuous vocal. Matthews, who sounds remarkably like Sting, is a perfect fit for Santana's leonine lead guitar, which traces Matthews without stepping on the singer's toes. Midway through, Santana steers the tune into a Latin vein, with Karl Perrazzo's insurgent congas leading the way.

On "Put Your Lights On," the irrepressible Everlast turns in a typically arresting performance. His husky voice wraps itself around a lyric about sin and redemption. Santana, who knows something about redemption, uses his guitar as an exclamation point, knifing in with thick slabs of wah-wah and keening sustain. Longtime Santana cohort keyboardist Chester Thompson adds tastefully restrained grace notes to the proceedings. Of course, Santana doesn't need a panoply of stars to shine, as tracks like "El Farol," "Primavera" and the album-opening "(Da Le) Yaleo" fully illustrate. The latter tune, with its jazzy Afri-Latin pulse, bears witness to the fact that the guitarist can still burn with the kind of zeal that is almost, well, supernatural.

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From the July 8-14, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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