The Essential Santana [Sony]
This two-disc collection -- which is packaged with a nicely assembled, photo-heavy booklet of liner notes detailing the guitarist's career history -- compiles not only the songs that made Santana a rock radio favorite in the '70s but also the non-smashes that cemented his reputation with fellow musicians. As such, his covers of Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" and Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman" -- both of which outstripped the originals in terms of renown -- are presented alongside such virtuosic showcases as the hypno-delic "Love, Devotion and Surrender" (from the era when he preferred being addressed as Devadip Carlos Santana) and a fiery live rendition of "Dance Sister Dance." Santana's groundbreaking fusion of Latin jazz and rock shines through on early staples like "Samba Pa Ti," while the eloquent spirituality of "Everybody's Everything" resonates with the quiet intensity that marked a good portion of his more cerebral work. The second disc is a little spottier, with perhaps too marked an emphasis on languid material, but standout cuts such as "The Healer," on which he's joined by blues legend John Lee Hooker, will keep the interest piqued.