Album: Santana IV
Label: Santana IV Records
Release Date: 04/15/2016
When it comes to Carlos Santana’s varied discography, most pounce on his landmark Abraxas and hail it as his undisputed masterpiece.
For me, that honor goes to its follow-up, Santana III. In my mind that album has everything – jubilance, horns, groovy percussion, amazing guitar work (by pre-Journey, 17-year-old axe-ster Neal Schon), wonderful Latin rhythms, the list goes on.
But Santana has always changed with the times. If he felt jazzy, he’d team up with John McLaughlin for a one-off album; if he delved into new wave, he’d throw out poppier gems like “Hold On” and “Winning.” And let’s not forget his whole “must appeal to the younger generations” period with Supernatural and Shaman – millions sold, yes, but not what a legendary guitar god should best be remembered for.
Fortunately, Santana has decided the time is now right for Old Home Week, reuniting with his classic III-era lineup for this 16-track collection. Though it may not have the blood, sweat and tears of III, Santana IV is still a strong work for a group that last played together more than four decades ago. More importantly, with this album Santana has finally decided to stop his incessant pop collaborations and shift his focus back to his musical roots.
It’s refreshing to hear Schon’s chops spar with those of Santana’s as Gregg Rolie lays down his vintage Hammond B3 organ lines. While no track here is as good as “Bazuka,” “Toussaint L’Overture” or “No One to Depend On,” there are plenty of delights, particularly in the instrumentals department. Highlights include the trippy “Fillmore East,” the Joe Satriani-esque “Echizo,” the ethereal “Forgiveness” and the horn-laden “Caminando,” which takes its cues from The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues.”
And let’s not forget Santana’s uncanny ability to suck you into a groove. “Love Makes The World Go Round,” featuring vocals from Ronald Isley, recalls III the most as it picks up from where “Everybody’s Everything” and “Para Los Rumberos” leave off. “Choo Choo,” as corny as it may be lyrically, contains an infectious bounce that’s hard to ignore.
Let’s hope this lineup will hit the road and bring the spice back to the masses given they created pure magic back in 1971. Santana IV proves they still have some terrific musical tricks up their sleeves.