Sound: It's easy to associate artists like U2 or Radiohead of going through various musical phases, but Carlos Santana also hasn't shied away from trying out new ventures over the past few decades. The iconic guitarist's latest release Multi-Dimensional Warrior is essentially a 2-disk retrospective of Santana's work from the 1970s and onward, but don't expect the usual favorites. Although you are getting 28 tracks between the 2 disks, you won't be hearing Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va, or even the Rob Thomas-assisted Smooth. Instead, you get a very eclectic mix of tracks that lean heavily toward Santana's affinity for the spiritual side of life.
Disk 1 of Multi-Dimensional Warrior is focused on recordings that have featured vocals, and you certainly get a very different sound when compared with the 14 instrumental tracks on disk 2. If you're used to Santana's Latin-flavored work, you might be a little shocked to hear that the first song is essentially a low-key Gospel track. Let There Be Light is centered around Santana's spoken word lyrics and has very little (if any) emphasis on his guitar skills. Obviously Santana is a spiritual man, but it was still a fascinating choice as his intro. The Latin flair is delivered in the 2nd track Brotherhood, which almost has a Miami Sound Machine vibe. The spoken word returns on this track, and if you weren't certain before, Santana is passionate about spreading a message of love and harmony.
You get a wide selection of vocalists, and if you're a diehard Santana fan then you'll probably be familiar with the likes of such frontmen as Greg Walker and Tony Lindsay. Although many of the vocalists do have an R&B approach to their singing, to Santana's credit, he doesn't stick with the same formula on every vocal track. Life Is For Living goes in a completely different stylistic direction with the introduction of an African influence. Even more infectious is I Believe It's Time, which features a Stevie Wonder-like keyboard hook underneath the melody.
The instrumental tracks on the 2nd disk are chock full of classic Santana soloing, but they do tend to lean on the mellow side. Songs like Curacion (Sunlight On Water), Full Moon, and Blues Latino definitely have a smooth jazz type of feel, which might not click with fans of Santana's faster, rhythm-oriented songs. As laid-back as it is, there are still quite a few jewels. Samba Pa Ti could very well be considered Pink Floyd-esque at times, while Blues For Salvador shows off the Santana's proficiency as a guitarist. You hear him using techniques that aren't necessarily common during the typical Santana song, and it's a pleasure to listen to him expand his repertoire. // 8
Lyrics: Only disk 1 features lyrics, but do be prepared for the spiritualized side of Santana. If you've heard Santana in recent interviews, he usually does relay a message of harmony and understanding, and that's exactly what you get in his songs. Yes, there are songs from a little while back that dabble in the usual topics like romantic love, but Santana goes beyond the ordinary at times (Life Is For Living explores the issue of apartheid). The message behind Multi-Dimensional Warrior is a positive one essentially, and Santana deserves credit for staying true to himself. // 9
Overall Impression: The hand-picked collection on Multi-Dimensional Warrior wasn't just tossed together, and it should be noted that Santana added new guitar overdubs two the tracks Spirit and Right Now. There is a distinct emotional feeling to the entire collection of both vocals and instrumentals, and using the word soundscape is one of the most fitting descriptions I've heard attached to the music. If you're expecting Oye Como Va for the majority, then you'll have to look at other Santana greatest-hits packages. Santana has prove himself to be someone who isn't afraid of dabbling in pretty much every style under the sun (well, perhaps not metal yet), and the latest release gives you a good grasp of the ground Santana has covered over his lengthy career. // 8