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Viva Carlos (Santana) Review

by Dan Upton

Viva Carlos is the latest in a series of tributes put out by Shrapnel Records (or, I suppose, its fusion and blues imprints, Tone Center and Blues Bureau). Santana is probably the most mainstream of the artists so far, the prior releases including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Weather Report; on the other hand, Carlos Santana was arguably just as important in the formative years of rock as the other artists were in their respective genres.

So what lies in store for the curious listener? The disc is primarily instrumental cuts, the exceptions being the mandatory chants on "Jingo" and "Oye Como Va". The backing band, consisting of Peter Wolf, Dave Weckl, Abraham Laboriel, Jeff Richman, and Luis Conte (okay, so drummer Dave Weckl is the only name I think I recognize) handle the Latin rhythm section admirably. Each track is performed by a different guitarist, most of whom are well-known in shred or fusion circles but not nearly so well exposed otherwise. Guitarists like Vinnie Moore, Jeff Richman (yes, the rhythm guitarist takes a lead as well), and Robben Ford handle their tracks with a combination of smooth playing and flash. Unfortunately, Eric Gales, a relatively recent addition to the Blues Bureau family, doesn't seem quite as in his element on "Jingo" as the other musicians. This is especially a shame because Eric Gales is otherwise a phenomenal artist, and showing up on a compilation like this could do a lot to expose him.

The bottom line is that this disc is really for musicians and fusion fans. Particularly those whose main experience with Santana has come through recent singles like "Smooth" and "Game of Love" will completely miss the point of this CD. If you're a fan of any/most of the players on this disc though and love listening to great guitarists, run out and pick this one up.

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Viva Carlos (Santana)

Label:Tone Center

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