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Various Artists: Viva Carlos!

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Carlos Santana’s guitar style has been one of those instantly identifiable sounds on the musical horizon for close to four decades. Cross-generational listeners with access to a pop-radio dial are familiar with his thick tone and soaring sustain on Latin-cum-rock-cum-blues riffing, spiced with jazz and folded into songs whose vocalists are generally outshined and rendered faceless by the signature Santana touch on guitar.

It’s understandable, but also a bit strange, that the guitar hero-centric Tone Center label would cull guitarists from the jazz, rock and in-between worlds for a Santana tribute project. The music is well-meaning enough, anchored in the solid rhythm tracks as laid down by drummer Dave Weckl, bassist Abe Laboriel, percussionist/vocalist Luis Conte and rhythm guitarist/project producer Jeff Richman. Guest guitarists do best to find a happy middle ground between their own style and the Santana sound, but we keep waiting for the Man himself to show up. Something seems wrong with the picture.

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