Sound: To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the multiplatinum, Grammy-winning album Supernatural, Carlos Santana has released a Legacy Edition that includes all the familiar favorites, as well as a 2nd disk full of hand-picked rarities. While some might consider a decade a fairly short period of time to revisit any album, Supernatural was a phenomenon (selling 15 million units in the United States alone) that is worthy of another look. There aren't any surprises with the extra material, but the new songs are still a satisfying, natural extension of the original tracklist and are fitting for the Legacy Edition.
Within the extended liner notes, writer Hal Miller provides a closer look at the conception and eventual making of Supernatural. Most of us know that Smooth was a massive hit single for Santana, but the notes indicate that the famous guitarist had his doubts if the track would actually work. It's also mentioned that head honcho Clive Davis had to sit down with Santana and prepare him for just how radically the music world changed since the heyday of Black Magic Woman. The liner notes are full of little anecdotes such as that one, and even if you're not a massive Santana fan, the history is an interesting one.
In terms of the musical content, Supernatural stood out obviously for Santana's trademark Latin-infused rock flavor, but also because of the myriad of guest performers that show up along the way. Besides Rob Thomas' performance on the hit Smooth, everyone from Everlast (Put Your Lights On) to Eagle-Eye Cherry (Wishing It Was) to Lauryn Hill (Do You Like The Way) offer their talents, and in turn create an amazingly eclectic album. In a way the album's success is due massively to those guest contributions, but in the end it is Santana acting as the guiding force. It's a highly produced effort that lacks the identity and raw nature that Santana's earlier recordings delivered, but the album did have crossover appeal.
The 2nd disk does feature a few tracks that are essentially the sister songs to the 1st CD, namely the instrumental version of Smooth, a dance mix to Corazon Espinado, and the Pumpin' Dolls Club Mix of Maria Maria. The standout tracks are a Gilmour-like solo provided courtesy of Eric Clapton in The Calling Jam and the grooving Latin vibe of Bacalao Con Pan. Again, there aren't any huge surprises, but the new additions should be appreciated by fans of the original 13 tracks on Supernatural. // 8
Lyrics: The revolving door of vocalists makes for eclectic song themes in both English and Spanish. From West Side Story allusions in Smooth (My Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa; You're my reason for reason) to hip-hop rhymes (Watch the master plan; The pastures span through the streets; Flipped the beat; Move the sheep), the lyrical content doesn't ever get stale. It's actually the instrumentals from Santana that often end out being the most intriguing tracks on Supernatural, but that's simply because the passionate solo work tends to steal the show. // 9
Overall Impression: Supernatural marked Carlos Santana's successful transition into the world of adult contemporary music for better or worse. Commercially and critically, the album consistently came out on top and earned a Grammy for Record of the Year. While the crossover appeal is undeniable, it's hard to not recall the days when Santana was first honing his craft. So if you're also still enamored with the mystical Black Magic Woman or the Latin jazz classic Oye Como Va, Supernatural will feel a bit too produced or mainstream to consider it a perfect recording. // 8