Billed as the first Santana compilation to span his entire career, it is true that Ultimate Santana does indeed run the gamut from 1969's "Evil Ways" to 2002's "Game of Love," but if you think that means it handles all phases of his career equally, you'd be sadly mistaken. Essentially, this 18-track set plays like a collection of highlights from his Supernatural-era comebacks, spiked with a couple of classic rock oldies -- because that's what it really is. It contains no less than "ten" superstar duets, including new numbers with Nickelback's Chad Kroeger (the streamlined and smoothed "Into the Night," which has little of Kroeger's trademark growly histrionics) and Jennifer Lopez and Baby Bash ("This Boy's Fire," a dance number where Santana seems incidental), plus a version of "The Game of Love" with Tina Turner (don't worry, the lighter, brighter, superior Michelle Branch version is here too) and plus "Interplanetary Party," which is a new band recording that sounds like a star duet. These are piled upon seven previously released duets -- including, of course, the hits "Smooth," "Maria Maria," and "The Game of Love," but also album tracks with Everlast, Steven Tyler, and Alex Band of the Calling -- with classic rock radio staples "Oye Como Va," "Black Magic Woman," "Evil Ways," "Europa," "Samba Pa Ti," and "No One to Depend On" for good measure. In other words, this is certainly "not" a hits disc for the fan of his earliest music, or his most adventurous music either; it's for the pop fans won over by his latter-day comeback, and for those listeners, it's the hits disc they'd want -- but for everybody else, it's better to seek out other compilations or original albums, because those paint a better picture of what Santana was all about than this crisp, clean collection of lifestyle pop.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi