Picks and Pans Review: Santana

updated 11/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST


All That I Am

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After the star-studded success of his 1999 comeback album Supernatural—which won nine Grammys and has sold more than 15 million copies—and its double-platinum follow-up, 2002's Shaman, Carlos Santana continues to work his collaboration magic. With guest appearances by everyone from Mary J. Blige and Steven Tyler to reggae star Sean Paul and Tex-Mex trio Los Lonely Boys, the guitar god covers the full pop spectrum on his latest. Though this cameo-heavy approach sometimes smacks more of record-company calculation than artistic inspiration—can it really be a coincidence that American Idol runner-up Bo Bice, who nicely fills the Rob Thomas slot on "Brown Skin Girl," is also on Santana's label—it's hard to argue with results that are this smooth.

First single "I'm Feeling You" finds Santana reteaming with Michelle Branch, who also sang lead vocals on the Shaman hit "The Game of Love," and their breezy duet is pleasant if predictable. Fresher and funkier is "My Man," on which Blige and OutKast's Big Boi bring out the fly guy in Santana. Even better is "Twisted," another song on which Santana explores his soulful side, as the southern-fried R&B of singer Anthony Hamilton intertwines with a sexy salsa groove. In addition to collaborations with Joss Stone ("Cry Baby Cry") and the Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am ("I Am Somebody"), the disc is rounded out by four tracks on which Santana and his like-named band fire up their trademark spicy Latin-rock jams. That's where Santana shows who he is at heart.


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