Santana IV Review

Santana

First, let me get a few things out of the way. I have read a few early reviews of this album and unlike other reviewers, I don’t care about the album’s chart potential, nor am I inclined to call a work self-indulgent just because it contains instrumental soloing. I also am not prone to give letter grades to an artist’s work as if we were in grade school.

I have been a fan of the Band as well as Carlos as a solo artist since hearing the first Santana album in 1969. I saw the band twice in the 1970’s, once at New York’s Academy of Music with Tower of Power, and saw Carlos with John McLaughlin. The last time I caught Santana live was the day before Supernatural was released.

This album starts off well with “Yambu”, a simple chant reminiscent of early Santana that at 3:26 doesn’t overstay its welcome, leaving you wanting more. “Shake It”, rocks harder and sounds a bit more current. The next track, “Anywhere You Want to go”, sounds like it could have been a hit in 1970 – and I mean that in a good way. I personally prefer hearing organ and electric piano instead of the sterile sampler sounds which populate much popular music today. The fourth song, “Fillmore East”, a slow ethereal jam featuring interplay between Carlos and Neal Schon, evokes the mellow atmosphere of the types of small concert halls like the Fillmore East, Academy of Music or Capitol Theater where the band used to play in the early days. In the days of Santana III, this would have been the end of side one.

 
Next comes “Love Makes the World Go Round” featuring Ronald Isley. If Carlos just had to have a guest on the album this was a fitting choice. Isley still sounds good after all these years and you may recall that after Greg First, let me get a few things out of the way. I have read a few early reviews of this album and unlike other reviewers, I don’t care about the album’s chart potential, nor am I inclined to call a work self-indulgent just because it contains instrumental soloing. I also am not prone to give letter grades to an artist’s work as if we were in grade school.

 
I have been a fan of the Band as well as Carlos as a solo artist since hearing the first Santana album in 1969. I saw the band twice in the 1970’s, once at New York’s Academy of Music with Tower of Power, and saw Carlos with John McLaughlin. The last time I caught Santana live was the day before Supernatural was released.

 
This album starts off well with “Yambu”, a simple chant reminiscent of early Santana that at 3:26 doesn’t overstay its welcome, leaving you wanting more. “Shake It”, rocks harder and sounds a bit more current. The next track, “Anywhere You Want to go”, sounds like it could have been a hit in 1970 – and I mean that in a good way. I personally prefer hearing organ and electric piano instead of the sterile sampler sounds which populate much popular music today. The fourth song, “Fillmore East”, a slow ethereal jam featuring interplay between Carlos and Neal Schon, evokes the mellow atmosphere of the types of small concert halls like the Fillmore East, Academy of Music or Capitol Theater where the band used to play in the early days. In the days of Santana III, this would have been the end of side one.

 
Next comes “Love Makes the World Go Round” featuring Ronald Isley. If Carlos just had to have a guest on the album this was a fitting choice. Isley still sounds good after all these years and you may recall that after Greg Rolie left the band he was replaced on vocals by singers who had a soulful style. By the way, Carlos smokes on this track. Isley follows on the next song, Freedom in Your Mind. This could have been an outtake from Welcome or Borboletta and has fine playing from Rolie, Schon and Carlos.

 
I agree with other critics that the next track “Choo Choo” is unnecessary. The lyrics are trite and it seems to be filler leading into “All Aboard”, a track that sounds like an all too brief reminder of “Batuka” from III. “Suenos” reminds me of the late Gato Barbieri in his “Last Tango in Paris” phase or perhaps it is Bola Sete that I am hearing. Only Carlos could tell me.

 
Carminando, the next track, is a perfect combination of old and new. This is what Santana was all about in the first place; blending old sounds – Afro Cuban, Caribbean, Mexican – with new ones – Blues/ Rock and Roll/ Jazz. This is the path of the music that the world has come to embrace.

 
Blues Magic starts with a lick from Albert King’s “Born under a Bad Sign” but seems to recall “Black Magic Woman. Greg Rolie even sounds like Peter Green as he sings the opening verse. As I listened further, I even heard Carlos quote a lick from Green’s “The Supernatural” – you see, Peter Green (as well as Gato Barbieri) was a big influence on Carlos. The end of the song reminds me of Taboo on III, except Taboo was a much more robust performance. Nevertheless, I like this song very much and do not compare it to the former song to disparage it.

 
“Echizo” is the “Toussaint L’ Overture” of this album and again, it is much too short and cannot compare to the original, but, for what it is, it ain’t bad. “Leave Me Alone” sounds like the Santana band of the 1970’s were brought back to do Supernatural – not essential. “You and I” is perhaps a continuation of “Echizo” but it doesn’t go very far. Next is “Come as You Are”. OK now I’m losing patience. This sounds ready made for a tourist commercial or maybe it could be played at the airport as you disembark to your destination. Nevertheless, unlike in the past, you can download the album and omit whatever tracks you don’t like in your playlist.

 
So, Carlos and company succumb to the all too frequent sin of the digital era and release everything they have (instead of editing judiciously now and releasing Santana IV plus bonus tracks five years from now). It still is an amazing album. This is an album I want to hear again and again. It conjures up the magic from long ago without sounding dated. It also does not sound like they are pandering to current audiences and sounding out of touch. People, this is a big accomplishment and it should be acknowledged. Buy this album.

The final track “Forgiveness” is quite good. This band needs no forgiveness. They should be respected and thanked for their contributions to great music over many decades. The album is available on April 15, 2016.

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