Various Artists

In retrospect, it's easy realizing Carlos Santana is one of the most influential guitarists of the post-Woodstock era. With the band bearing his name, Santana emerged from the same fertile Bay Area hippie-rock scene as the Grateful Dead. His singular blending of psychedelic rock, blues, cutting-edge jazz (à la Coltrane, Miles), and Latin/Afro-Cuban music helped Santana achieve mainstream popularity. On Viva Carlos!, contemporary stringbenders tip their fedoras to the man. Featuring the same core band from track to track (Peter Wolf, Abe Laboriel, Dave Weckl, etc.), Viva has a consistency that most "tribute" projects annoyingly lack. Individual approaches range from hard-rock-edged (a frenzied Eric Gales) to bebop/Latin fusion (a crafty, melodious Pat Martino) to almost copycat (a blistering, bluesy Coco Montoya) to sparing and blissfully wistful (the sweet sting of Albert Lee).

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