Reunited Original Santana Brings the Past Into the Future

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Santana-GATEFOLD-LP-1tSantana
Santana IV
(Santana IV Records)
In A Word: Transcendent

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you look at the art work of Santana IV, with its big-cat bow to the avatar’s 1969 debut album? The music he made at Woodstock the very same year, of course! The rocking Afro-Latino sound of “Oye Como Va” is the essence of Santana. That, and the master’s willingness to move through and transcend musical categories, pushing the boundaries of jazz, soul, rock and blues – even new age – and Santana-izing them with his personal brand of love, devotion and surrender.

To also let you know without question that this is both a harkening back and a statement for the future, the band leads off with the unmistakably Woodstock beat box of “Yambu.” The crescendo of Aquarian age energy builds with the specifically cha-cha-and-“Oye Como Va”-laced inflection of Gregg Rolie’s tune, the LP’s first single, “Anywhere You Want To Go.”

“Come on here, baby, sit on my lap,” he croons. “Tell me what you wanna do/… where you wanna go…/we could fly we could drive we could walk baby I don’t know/Maybe take the top down/With the wind in your hair/Maybe to the beach or the mountains…You know I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care/Whoaa oh, take you where you want to go.”

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It’s a real laid-back, feel-good song. And when I heard it coming out of the speakers of my convertible, I found myself choogling down the highway, and heading toward the beach.

As Carlos showed with his latter-day “comeback” album Smooth, he has the uncanny ability to bring in collaborators like Rob Thomas who infuse the mix with refreshing elements of personality. On this album, that spotlight falls on Ronald Isley, who brings up the energy and Atlantean outlook on the next two cuts, “Love Makes The World Go Round” and “Freedom In Your Mind,” which clicks so masterfully with a patented organ-percussion-falsetto plaint that would be right at home at a Bernie Sanders rally. And the joyful shout of the mumbo-jumbo chestnut chorus, “Aqui aa wa, hey wa wa!” puts an exclamation point on it. From there, it’s Carlos going off into outer space with a lead line that Jimi would recognize and smile upon were he to descend from Olympia.

Good times and guy talk are all over the next two cuts, “Choo Choo” and “All Aboard,” which take sexual innuendo to new places. These are companion pieces – utter jams of classic Santana energy.

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Which takes us to my big fave of the record, the enchanting “Sueños.” It leads off with an acoustic line that should really be considered by for the next James Bond soundtrack. It is sweet and ballad-heavy, and it makes me want to cry every time I hear it. “You and I” later in the mix takes this soulful serenade to another level.

There is another amazing aspect of this album that makes it aptly named and an inspiration. Coming together again with Carlos Santana on guitar and vocals is his ’70s lineup of Gregg Rolie (keyboards, lead vocals), Neal Schon (guitar, vocals), Michael Carabello (percussion) and Michael Shrieve (drums), the first time in 45 years – since 1971’s multi-platinum Santana III – that the quintet has recorded together. This is not only good news but a cosmic epiphany of the mind. Apparently, the whole concept was Schon’s idea (“Santana III was the first record I ever did…” ), and the musicians hit the studio during breaks in the Santana and Journey touring cycles.

The dueling guitars aspect gets a workout on “All Aboard,” “Caminando,” “Blues Magic” and “Shake It,” with plenty of feedback-tinged moments to keep this former Guitar World editor happy. And then there is “Echizo,” another typical Carlos burner – this just makes me happy.

Then they bring it full circle with “Come As You Are,” a feelgood Latin rocker. And now, 16 cuts later, I am at the Surrender part of the Love-Devotion-and-place. I listen once again to the album closer, “Forgiveness,” and I try somehow to pick my guts up from the floor, where they have spilled out in a big, sloppy mess.

Namaste.

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Noe Gold

Founding Editor of Guitar World magazine and Creative Consultant to the Jimi Hendrix Foundation, Noe Gold has worked for Crawdaddy and The Hollywood Reporter, The Village Voice and the New York Daily News. His stories have appeared in GQ, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Premiere, The Movies and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. The author of articles and books on the music of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Albert King, among others, his latest project is the forthcoming book, Hendrix Now! Backstory of a Legend, which features Mick Taylor, the late Alan Douglas and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Stevens, Joe Satriani, Leonard Nimoy and a few other Hendrix intimates and devotees in the ultimate followup to his seminal work started at Guitar World thirty years ago. Go to www.hendrixnow.com.
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  1. Matthew
    #1 Matthew 28 February, 2017, 20:32

    Is this Noe Gold the same guy as Noe Goldwasser, who used to write for Musician magazine?

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