In the year of Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez, it's particularly satisfying to find that the Latin American release that's scoring nearly as much attention, airplay, and album sales as any these days is by ... Carlos Santana.
Yup. While other members of the Woodstock Nation the peace-and-love version, that is, not the recent "fire walk with me" edition are beginning to receive their AARP cards in the mail, Santana's Supernatural (Arista) is happily ensconced in the Top 10 a stunning development, considering that it wasn't that long ago that Santana was no longer even recording for a major label.
No doubt some of Supernatural's appeal has to do with the stunt casting that permeates the album. The ubiquitous single "Smooth" sports a vocal performance by Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas, and the album also features appearances by Dave Matthews, Everlast, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, rock en espa ñol supergroup Maná, Eagle Eye Cherry and Eric Clapton. The idea couldn't have escaped Santana's new label, Arista, that each of these acts would bring a fraction of their sizable constituencies to the party, driving album sales and even getting good old Carlos on MTV, fer chrissakes. Whether by the calculation of record-company weasels or not, thank God it happened. With Hill's funked-up "Do You Like the Way," Everlast's "Put Your Lights On" and "The Calling," featuring Clapton, setting the standards, Supernatural is Santana's finest release in, well, who knows? But no one deserves it more. It's been 30 years 30! since Santana first put Latin rock on the map with songs like "Evil Ways," "Oye Como Va," and "Everybody's Everything." That may be ancient history to all of you currently livin' la vida loca, but it wouldn't kill you to drop by the Fox Theatre and thank the man who made it all possible.