The Essential Santana [Sony]

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There were enough Santana compilations that preceded the 2002 release of this two-CD, 33-song double CD that it was less of a remarkable event than it would have been had it appeared earlier. The material spans Santana's entire stint at Columbia, from the late '60s to the late '80s, including all the expected favorites: "Jingo," "Evil Ways," "Soul Sacrifice" (though the studio and not the Woodstock version), "Black Magic Woman," "Oye Como Va," "Everybody's Everything," "No One to Depend On," "Love, Devotion & Surrender," "She's Not There," and "Dance Sister Dance (Baila Mi Hermana)." It also throws on John Lee Hooker's "The Healer," which Carlos Santana played on and helped write. For someone who likes Santana a lot, all the way through the late '60s to the late '80s, but doesn't want an exorbitant box set, this is a good deal. It's chronologically sequenced, has all the most famous numbers, and gives greatest weight to the late '60s and early '70s, when the best Santana music was recorded. For someone more discriminating, there's just too much mediocre material on board, particularly on disc two (spanning the late '70s and '80s), when Santana was in artistic decline. Most listeners who want a greatest-hits compilation are still better off with one of the single-CD best-of anthologies available, as those have less dross and emphasize Santana's early peak period.

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