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Shape Shifter

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iTunes Review

After years of inviting various vocalists to accompany his six-string wizardry, Carlos Santana returns to form with 2012’s Shape Shifter, which lets his guitar do the singing. The title track sets the mood with a homage to Native American culture. The sounds of wild animals play alongside some brief chanting before rootsy instruments gradually build under Santana’s trademark leads: a blend of Latin styles played through classic rock guitar distortion. From the get-go, it’s evident that the man’s musicianship has aged well. Chester Thompson’s Hammond B-3 organ playing makes for perfect accompaniment here and throughout. He knows when to lean back and when to take the lead, balancing the call-and-response jamming without upstaging the star. Dramatic string arrangements in the following “Dom” spotlight Santana’s prowess as a composer (he arranged and produced much of Shape Shifter). The standout “Mr. Szabo” pays tribute to the influential Gábor Szabó, a Hungarian guitarist whose '60s albums are well worth searching out.

Customer Reviews

Back to the future, Carlos?

In some ways this is the album that many Santana fans have been waiting for - a return to the older, instrumental driven rock of the early to mid-70s. 'Eres La Luz' is the only track with substantial vocals of any sort, the rest of the songs being instrumentals featuring Carlos' soaring guitar. This album is no Caravanserai, however. The tunes are fairly risk free, there's no breaking of moulds here. The tracks shift one by one between gentle instrumentals that blend 'lush' keyboard string synths and acoustic/electric guitars, and straight ahead instrumental rock pieces that lack any compositional subtlety despite the majesty of Carlos' guitar playing. The tribute to Gabor Szabo, with its pared back and jazzy approach, is the furthest away from this genre we get. Overall its not a bad album, but it doesn't really pack any surprises and therefore lacks punch. The solos are good, but you get the nagging feeling you've heard them before. The compositions are solid, but with desperately few moments of inspiration. Overall, it's all too safe and leaves this reviewer eager for something a bit more raw driven by musicians who are willing to take some risks. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if the mature Carlos is willing to go there.


Great Album. The soulful guitar of Carlos is inspired. This is just what many of us Santana fans have been waiting for - an instrumental album. Every musician on the album is fabulous and Carlos' guitar touches your soul. If you are a Santana fan (and even if your not) you will not regret this purchase.


My wife and I have been followers of Santana since the Abraxas album during our dating days. My eight track player loved this album as well leaving threads of tape from one end of the car to the other. His concerts always left you wanting more and wondering what's next. I've loved every album as each had its signature Santana sound but this new album bridges all the favorite sounds and dance music since our first introduction to Abraxas, Well done and bravo Carlos!!


Formed: 1966 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Santana is the primary exponent of Latin-tinged rock, particularly due to its combination of Latin percussion (congas, timbales, etc.) with bandleader Carlos Santana's distinctive, high-pitched lead guitar playing. The group was the last major act to emerge from the psychedelic San Francisco music scene of the 1960s and it enjoyed massive success at the end of the decade and into the early '70s. The musical direction then changed to a more contemplative and jazzy style as the band's early personnel...
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