“All That I Am” (J)
* * 1/2
CARLOS SANTANA could jam with your cellphone’s ring tone and make it sound meaningful. Let’s hope his career doesn’t come to that.
This third installment in his partnership with Clive Davis’ J Records (due in stores Tuesday) echoes his 1999 career-rejuvenating “Supernatural” and its 2002 successor “Shaman” in its collaborations with stars, some making return appearances (Michelle Branch), most trading notes with him for the first time.
Album producers Davis and Santana drop in a surprise or two as they continue to treat the “Supernatural” formula as a musical bible. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler isn’t the first person you’d think to pair with Santana, but as he opens up and screeches on the rock ballad “Just Feel Better,” his voice becomes human counterpart to the sound of Santana’s electric guitar.
“American Idol’s” Bo Bice rocks on “Brown Skin Girl,” a failed attempt at cross-culturalism that comes off as romantic racism. Black Eyed Peas rapper Will.i.am taps the Santana feel-good spiritual vibe in the self-esteem workout “I Am Somebody,” but it’s the hip-hop energy Mary J. Blige and OutKast’s Big Boi bring to “My Man” that makes the most of the assembled talent by relying on musical inspiration rather than marquee power.
Can you hear me now?
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.