Editor’s note: Santana plays Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.
Certain music is unmistakable, some chemistry absolute magic.
Latin-flavored rock peppered with Carlos Santana’s one-of-a-kind soul-penetrating guitar? That was matchless magic right from the start. Neal Schon joined Santana as second guitarist for 1971’s “III,” following the huge “Abraxas” album. Forty-five years later, Schon inspired Santana to make “IV,” reuniting the two of them with singer and keyboards player Gregg Rolie, drummer Michael Shrieve, and percussionist Michael Carabello. Longtime Santana bassist Benny Rietveld and percussionist Karl Perazzo play in the places of David Brown (RIP) and Jose “Chepito” Areas (MIA). Ronald Isley, of the Isley Brothers, sings two of the more radio friendly tunes among the batch of 16, all written and performed by the band.
So, does it live up? For the vast majority, a resounding yes!
They can certainly still rock in that classic Santana style, thunderously so on “Shake it,” and in festival Latino fashion on “Anywhere You Want to Go.” “Love Makes the World Go Round” features the 75 year-old Isley having a sprightly, natural ball. The trippy vibe of a special era, a hallowed theatre, and the man — promoter Bill Graham — who owned it all, gets captured to perfection in the rambling instrumental, “Fillmore East.”
But best of all, Santana the band, and the man, play with regal grace on the stunning instrumental, “Suenos.” No one has ever played the guitar like Carlos Santana, and that’s shown here to spellbinding effect. Schon compliments him wonderfully throughout the album, and it sure is great to hear Rolie singing in Santana again. His voice carries a certain tuneful but tough charm, best displayed in “Blues Magic,” the title of which sums up precisely what’s on display in the song. “Echizo” then quickly propels it all into a hot and sexy Mexicali-fired jam. Ending with “Forgiveness,” Santana elevates itself into the mystic, leaving wide-open possibilities for the future.
Heart, mind, and body are all moved across the entirety of the spectrum that makes up classic Santana. It’s like they never left.
Release: April 15, 2015
Label: Santana IV Records