Divine Light: Reconstructions & Mix Translation
Back in the early Seventies, well before he'd ever heard of Rob Thomas, Carlos Santana cut a pair of solo records, Love Devotion Surrender and Illuminations, while under the influence of two dangerous substances: the music of John Coltrane and the philosophy of Sri Chinmoy. Now producer Bill Laswell has gone back to those albums for a "reconstruction and mix translation," similar to the remixes he's done of electric-era Miles Davis (Panthalassa) and Bob Marley (Dreams of Freedom). The result is a pretentious mess. Laswell's ideas — like tying the re-sequenced tracks together with an Indian tamboura drone — are interesting, but he's dealing with some awfully unfocused material. Several Illuminations cuts offer little more than bombastic orchestral crescendos and interminable harp-plucking by Coltrane's widow Alice. And though it's fun to hear the Love Devotion Surrender selections, especially when Carlos trades searing licks with fellow axe-slinger John McLaughlin, the fact is neither guitarist can match the intensity of their obvious saxophonic idol; they huff and they puff, but they're still way behind the Trane.