Guitar Heaven:
The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time

Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana is at it again, using the formula that earned him all those little gold megaphones. He’s backing a whole bunch of popular singers with his brilliant playing and his usually amazing percussionists, covering a whole batch of famous rock tunes on Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time.

“Whole Lotta Love” features Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. It isn't much different than the original but Cornell sounds good. The middle part is still slightly spooky and the timbale works in the breaks. “Can’t You Hear My Knockin’” has a nice groove, but Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland does little to add to the stiff arrangement. “Sunshine Of Your Love “ is where things finally get interesting. With Rob Thomas’s excellent vocal, a cool organ and Santana-like percussion, there's a sweet rhythm in this reworked Cream classic. Santana is probably the least interesting despite his excellent playing. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the first single, features Yo-Yo Ma and Santana weaving the cello and guitar together. By the time India.Arie starts her vocal, I almost wished it had stayed an instrumental.

“Back in Black” is interesting with Nas rapping and Carlos rocking, but not much more. “Riders On The Storm” is OK at best (even with Ray Manzarek playing organ) and “Smoke On The Water” is a showcase for Santana’s leads, but leaves little else to the imagination. There’s some great congas on Def Leppard’s “Photograph,” with an equally great vocal by Chris Daughtry. “Bang A Gong” works on every single level with Bush singer Gavin Rossdale singing. Santana sneaks in his speaking guitar fills nicely in the verses and absolutely cooks with purpose and soul during the leads. The sensuality and integrity of this T. Rex tune is certainly retained. Then there's “Little Wing” and “I Ain’t Superstitious.” Joe Cocker takes the vocal for the former, while Jonny Lang joins Santana on the latter, the first time we truly hear the man’s chops.

Is Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time a great album? Are these the greatest guitar classics of all time? When you hedge bets like this, trying to reach for a concept more commercial than organic, you’re going to get some slip-ups. That being said, Carlos Santana is at the top of his game, even if he is not truly pushing himself all that much around the board these days. As long as he sticks to guitars and avoids reality shows, all is right with the world.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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