On the cover of Santana’s new Shaman album are images of Bob Marley, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye. Making a bad album is one thing, but implying that it somehow resembles Natty Dread or Electric Ladyland is another.
Three years ago, Santana released Supernatural, a mediocre though ridiculously well-received album that reinvented the guitarist and his band for the TRL generation. With Shaman, industry masterminds L.A. Reid and Clive Davis desperately attempt to keep Santana “hip.”
This time around, they keep Rob Thomas on board (though only as a writer for a few tracks), but trade in so-five-minutes-ago stars like Everlast and Eagle Eye Cherry for the fresher Michelle Branch, Macy Grey and Chad Kroeger. Keep in mind that Supernatural sold over 21 million copies; Shaman will not.
Unlike the more fluid Supernatural, this album’s songs bear little resemblance to each other. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since almost all were written, produced, and recorded by different people.
While some of its pop songs are catchy — particularly “Sideways,” with the G. Love-sounding Citizen Cope, and “The Game of Love” — they can’t hold a flame to the odd brilliance of “Smooth.”
The rock songs are worse, even bordering on flat-out depressing, mainly because P.O.D. and Chad Kroeger really, really suck. As a matter of fact, the P.O.D.-penned and performed “America” makes REO Speedwagon seem like swell songwriters. The album’s instrumental tracks, which feature the Santana band (which long ago sounded good) are even worse. They sound more like Ricky Martin than, for example, the Buena Vista Social Club.
The hip-hop songs like “Since Supernatural” are the best example of how bad this album is. Produced by the once-respectable Wyclef Jean, the song boasts the lyrics: “Since Supernatural ain’t nothing changed / all new players still the same old game / well if you’re low-riding up in your Range / let me see you blow your horn / for the mommies that be looking good at the bus stop / the ones at the club that be making the fights start.” Who do these people think they are? Why are they still making music? How do they sleep at night?
Carlos Santana is forced to play over all of this garbage, and he doesn’t do it well. He sounds like an overexcited Guitar Center employee recording a solo over some momentarily famous pop star’s track. He best sums up the album himself, in a recent interview with CDNOW: “I’m still participating,” he said. “Not competing, but participating in this arena with Britney Spears and ‘Nsync and Dave Matthews.” Whatever, Carlos.