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Awareness Magazine
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Carlos Santana Shape Shifter

By Michael Diamond

With a 40-year career that includes 36 albums, 10 Grammy awards, and 100 million albums sold, I’ll take the liberty of assuming that it’s not necessary to go into great detail about who Carlos Santana is. And I’m sure that I’m not the only guitarist who cites Carlos as a major influence in their playing — for me he’s always been number one. However, it’s not just his music that has touched my life, it is his Being… as a spiritual warrior, which not only flows through his fingers, but also through his words, his actions, and his Soul in service of love, understanding, and unity in the world.

What makes Carlos Santana especially relevant in this issue of Awareness Magazine with its theme of “Indigenous People” is the fact that his brand new album, Shape Shifter, is dedicated to Native Americans. In his words: “I have consciously created a CD to honor the first people of the land. I dedicated this album to them because I think it’s important with where we are in 2012, since the world is supposed to end, and they know more than anyone about the shifts in perception. But as Bob Marley said, ‘It’s the beginning, not the end.’ We have computers and satellites, but we’re not as connected to Mother Nature as they are. We’re always fighting with her.”

And while the album has a strong focus on honoring the Native Americans, in true Santana fashion, he takes a more expansive and inclusive perspective: “As you know, people in New Zealand collectively agreed to give an apology to the Aborigines in Australia, and for me, whatever we do here in America to honor the American Indians, the Chinese, the African-Americans and everybody else is a big step.” He cites President Obama’s signing of the 2009 Native American Apology Resolution and says, “I encourage any and all countries (that have not as yet done so) to acknowledge the first people of their land, and make this a collective global effort.”

In addition to its theme, one of the most interesting things about the album is that with the exception of one track, it is an all-instrumental CD. This is a fact that is sure to surprise and delight fans of his fiery fret-work. Unlike many of his recordings since 1999, there are no pop star vocalists or high profile special guests. It was his intention to “create instrumental music where the melody becomes a universal language. It’s more a collection of stories than songs,” says Santana. “Songs require intros, choruses, bridges, endings. On this record, it was more about ‘close your eyes and play.’ They’re still songs, but they’re not directed at radio. I was just being true to what I felt.”

The title track, which opens the CD does unfold like a story with its earthy and atmospheric intro of Native American elements such as rattles, drumming, chanting, the cry of an eagle, etc. The piece also begins and ends with Carlos playing nylon string acoustic-electric guitar, which actually finds its way into a number of tracks on the CD. However, those wanting to hear him soar on electric guitar don’t have to wait long as he lets fly with an extended solo midway through the song, as well as elsewhere on the album. I appreciated the fact that Carlos’ signature lead guitar sound is used judiciously throughout the CD, and that he takes a softer approach on a number of songs and allowing the album to breathe and have a balance of yin and yang. Some of the tracks have a more laid back ambience that would be right at home on smooth jazz radio. It is indeed, a well-rounded album with something for fans of his many facets. I particularly liked one of the slower tunes entitled “Spark Of The Divine,” which opened with tinkling chimes, harp glissandos, and soulful guitar that recalled the 1974 release “Illuminations” which was a collaboration by Carlos and Alice Coltrane — a spiritually-based meditative excursion that was a forerunner of new age music.

The music on Shape Shifter represents a collection of Carlos’ instrumental tunes that have been germinating since the late 90’s, waiting for the right moment to bloom. He has paid particular attention to the sequencing of the songs on the CD, giving the album a wonderful ebb and flow and making it feel like a body of work. As a huge fan of Carlos Santana I am equally excited by the music on this latest release as I am by the spirit and the inspiration behind it. Carlos says it best: “We are one family — and Shape Shifter is basically the same concept of honoring that the blood flowing through your veins in your family is holy and sacred and we are all one family.”

For more information, visit: www.santana.com

Michael Diamond is a music producer, recording artist, and music journalist in the San Francisco Bay area with over 30 years of experience writing for nationally-published magazines and more recently worldwide on the internet. He currently has five CD’s including two with new-age music pioneer Steven Halpern. For additional reviews of CD’s, DVD’s, and more, please visit: www.michaeldiamondmusic.com