Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Bill Laswell: Carlos Santana Devine Light (2001)

MI0000332289Bass player / producer Bill Laswell performs the same reconstructive surgery on the music of Carlos Santana that he previously did for electric Miles Davis (Panthalassa, 1998), and with equally stunning results.

This time he combines a pair of complementary but very different albums in his digital blender: Santana’s 1974 solo LP “Illuminations”, and “Love Devotion Surrender”, his 1973 collaboration with fellow guitar legend and Sri Chinmoy disciple John McLaughlin.

The track selection is split pretty evenly between the two original LPs, but the new musical facelift seamlessly melds everything together into an exciting hybrid even stronger than the sum of its parts.

The music itself showcases two virtuosos at the top of their game, and newly transfigured by the spiritual teachings of their shared guru. But don’t let the starry-eyed Eastern mysticism of song titles like “The Life Divine” or “Bliss: The Eternal Now” scare you away.

The performances owe their (considerable) energy more to the engine of early ’70s Jazz-Rock Fusion, in this case with a strong John Coltrane connection: “LDS” was a tribute album of sorts to the celebrated Jazz saxman, and “Illuminations” was recorded with Coltrane’s widow Alice, who contributed the gorgeous harp and string arrangements.

What Laswell adds is a discreet measure of enhancement, clarification and focus, all applied with the utmost respect for his sources. This isn’t your typically slapdash remix album. It holds together more like an extended sixty-minute suite, from the pinpoint acoustic perfection of McLaughlin’s “Naima” to the ecstatic fusion guitar fury of Santana’s “Angel of Sunlight”, and from the unbelievably lush orchestral sweep of “Angel of Air” to the propulsive rhythms of “A Love Supreme”, in which the two guitar heroes trade lightning solos over a bed of Latin percussion.

Imagine a shotgun marriage between Santana (the band) and McLaughlin’s first Mahavishnu Orchestra (members of both groups are prominently featured), with Laswell presiding over the ceremony.

The only reason I’m denying his remix the five stars of an acknowledged masterpiece is because all the material is pre-existing (and I’m not familiar with the original Illuminations album).

But this disc is truly something special, and deserves more exposure than it so far has received here at Prog Archives.

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March 8, 2013 - Posted by | Bill Laswell Carlos Santana Devine Light |

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