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Aural Pleasure Review

Santana: 'Shape Shifter'

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Santana’s first release on his newly formed Starfaith label is a mostly instrumental tour-de-force that pays homage to the indigenous peoples of America while advocating for international recognition of the egregious wrongs done to native peoples worldwide. At its best, it has the fierceness of “Soul Sacrifice”-era Santana, the spectacular sound of Supernatural, and the challenging yet accessible nature of Heavy Weather-era Weather Report. Mostly written by Santana, collaborations in the album include a dead-on version of Senegal’s Touré Kunda’s “Dom” (Santana’s tasteful guitar replaces the original vocal line) and “Canela,” which features a solid Afro-Cuban piano by son Salvador. The songs have been collected by Santana since the 1990s but have a timeless quality to them. Besides the title song that opens the album with Santana’s voice channeling Native America, only one track has vocals: “Eres la luz” (You’re the Light), where Santana band singers Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay take turns in a crowd-pleasing flamenco-meets-salsa I could perfectly live without. Yet, even at this sole syrupy moment, everything in Shape Shifter is so tightly executed one can only thank Santana for making an album that’s pretty darn close to what some of us have been begging of him for years.

★★★ ½ (out of 5 stars)

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