Ceremony: Remixes & Rarities

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If you remember the early days of Santana -- the guitarist and the band -- then you may have mixed feelings about some of Carlos' renaissance work, especially a disc like this. Santana at Woodstock, Abraxas, "Black Magic Woman" -- maybe not a world away, but certainly a full career away. With his latter-day work, the Mexican-born axeman has gone more for the pop shots and employed a revolving-door policy of guest-star lead singers. And yes, the charts have smiled on him. This album is a decent clue as to why, but whether the gifted guitarist really needed to put out a set of remixes and "rarities" is open to debate. The material here derives from the sessions that yielded Santana's deuce of comeback discs, 1999's mega-platinum Supernatural and 2000's multi-platinum Shaman. From the former, "Smooth" and "Maria Maria" have been remixed and "Primavera" re-recorded, with vocals by new-generation salsa star Jerry Rivera. From the latter, "Foo Foo" scored a remix, while a new version of "Why Don't You and I" finds Alex Band of the Calling taking over the singing role originally filled by Nickelback's Chad Kroeger. The Shaman album cut "Victory Is Won" has also been tacked on. The new material includes the breezy -- but overly long -- acoustic number "Mañana"; the vivacious, brass-garnished "Truth Don Die"; the album-worthy romance dance of "Let Me Love You Tonight"; the ethereal "Curación (Sunlight on Water)"; and the vocal/guitar weave of the spicy "Come to My World." There's nothing wrong with the quality here, per se, but whether it really adds anything to the Santana legacy is highly questionable. For example, the multi-chart hit "Smooth," served up here as a dance remix, is totally a take-it-or-leave-it affair. Whether or not one is of the mind that this album is a little superfluous -- even exploitative -- there's always that mystical guitar work: filling here, leading there, masterful and captivating. It's the signature instrument of Latin rock. That alone is always worth the price of admission.

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