Bill Laswell Divine Light: Reconstructions & Mix Translation
Grade
A-
 
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Santana
Mick Harris

Well-known electronic music and experimentalist Bill Laswell has taken a great chance in reconstructing and remixing the music of Carlos Santana. Rather than trying a hand at the more rock and roll songs of Santana's career, Laswell has taken songs from 1973's Love Devotion Surrender and 1974's Illuminations, a period in which Santana focused more on a spiritual jazz/rock fusion with heavy influences from reggae and eastern culture. The original albums featured tracks written by Santana, John Coltrane and John McLaughlin and featured string performances by Alice Coltrane along with a number of musical greats.

Because the original music was so far away from the more traditional Santana works and so heavily influenced by other cultures, it almost seems appropriate for the culture-savvy Laswell to put his hands on them. Because so much of the original works defied traditional categorization, Laswell's own touch pushes the boundaries of the music even further.

The opening track, Angel of Air, opens with a slow orchestrated flute piece that flows into strings and mellow bass line and then slowly shifts into a casual guitar line that's augmented with the bass and strings. Horn and harp-work really fill out the lengthy opener which eventually moves into A Love Supreme, a more traditional track in the sense that it features some vocals and a more structured pattern to it. A lot of the tracks have a more free flowing, improvisation feel to their structure. A Love Supreme, though, has a build up to Santana's trademark guitarwork, which in itself feels markedly untouched.

Track 3, Illuminations, feels more like an harp interlude rather than an actual track on its own, especially when followed by The Life Divine, an almost traditional reshaping that feels much more like experimental rock than the more ambient remixes of the other pieces. Coltrane's Naima is a passive piece that works as a pleasant change of pace which eventually moves toward the lengthy Angel of Sunlight, a cultural influenced track with some fine solo-work.

The album eventually moves towards the more spiritual, almost prayer-like trio of Bliss: The Eternal Now, Meditation and Bliss: The Eternal - Return, which serve to draw the finale of the album away from traditional Santana guitar rock to a more ambient, meditative realm.

While the music is a part of two albums, the production manages to successfully merge the tracks into a coherent work that doesn't feel disjointed in anyway. The way each track flows into the next creates an experience that's perfect to listen at any time during just about any situation. It can serve well as background music or just as something to listen to while relaxing. Santana traditionalists may be less than happy that Laswell has taken liberties, but the final product is finely polished are represents the original material well, although some may think that it is a little predictable at times, not taking too many risks. Either way, Laswell bridges the gap and creates a fine album worth the time and money.

- - Kinderfeld

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