Essential: ‘Supernatural’ is just that
Versatility is a quality that is important to have in both music and life. If there is one album that exemplifies this, it is Supernatural by Carlos Santana. The veteran guitarist from Mexico has recorded albums for nearly four decades, but this album, which has sold 15 million copies in the U.S. and won 9 Grammys, has proven to be one of his more timeless.
Released in summer 1999, Supernatural features a balanced mix of eclectic collaborations with English-speaking musicians, songs with Spanish lyrics and solos that don’t feature any lyrics: just Santana’s exquisite guitar playing. Each song is unique, which is what makes this album great. The first song is the nearly six-minute long ‘(Da Le) Yaleo,’ which features Spanish lyrics combined with various instruments including guitar, keys, bass, drums, percussion, congas, trombone and trumpet. The former two give the song a jazz-like feel.
The second song is less complex but just as excellent. "Love of My Life" features vocals from Dave Matthews, and the lyrics and the guitar playing are all classic. "You are my dream; you’re everything to me," sings Matthews over a simple but harmonious guitar melody provided by Santana. The keys in the background also complement the guitar, and the way the guitar solo (which has one guitar repeating the melody after the other) is simply timeless. The song culminates with an up-tempo Santana solo as well as pianos and congas in abundance.
The chemistry between Santana and Rob Thomas is unbelievable on the Grammy-winning classic "Smooth," which everyone should be familiar with. Thomas’ quotes are memorable, from "You’re my reason for reason," to "I’m from the barrio…you hear my rhythm on the radio."
A brilliant collaboration that most might not be aware of is "Do You Like the Way," which features production and rhymes from Lauren Hill of The Fugees, and vocals from Cee-Lo, who croons "everything is relative, if you want to get, then give."
In addition to these, there are collaborations with Latin artists, such as "Corazon Espinado," an excellent number featuring Man’aacute;, who sings, "Como duele, como duele el corazon / Cuando nostiene entregados." Other similar songs include "Africa Bamba," (which has vocals from Santana) and "Primavera." "El Farol" simply has Santana’s guitar and other instruments.
Any reviewer of this album would be remiss to not mention "Maria Maria," another Santana classic that gets radio play to this day. Featuring production from Wyclef Jean of The Fugees and memorable singing from The Product G’B, this song is timeless. "Maria, Maria, she remind me of the Westside Story…she fell in love in East L.A. to the sounds of guitar, played by Carlos Santana," sings G’B, as his vocals segue into a vintage melody played by Santana, which is perfectly described by Wyclef’s adlib: "Yo, Carlos, man, you’re making that guitar cry."
Listeners find an unexpected collaboration in "Put Your Lights On," which features 90’s star Everlast. Santana handles the duties for the lead guitar and the congas/percussion, while Everlast plays the rhythm guitar and of course sings the lyrics: "Hey now, all you sinners, put your lights on/ all you children, better leave your lights on/ cause there’s a monster living under my bed, whispering in my ear/there’s an angel with a hand on my head, she said I got nothin’ to fear."
Santana’s ability to reach fans of all genres of music on this album is amazing and proof that versatile music is the best.