Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Album Review: Santana- Santana IV

Santana IV
** out of *****
The Backstory: A few years ago Neal Schon was talking about getting back to his teenage roots and recording with Carlos Santana. Santana went one better suggesting that they get back together the "Woodstock" lineup of the group for one more go at it. These players, Santana, Schon, Greg Rolie, Mike Carabello, and Michael Shrieve hadn't recorded together since Santana III (hence this title). Over the last few years the parties have been jamming (along with Karl Perazzo, Benny Rietveld and Ronald Isley all from Santana's current band) and IV is the distilled offering of those sessions.   

The Result: A mixed bag and an odd overall feel.

You can't fault the group for trying, and there are a few legitimate magic in the air moments here, but there are also wandering, languid offerings that seem to just take up space. It is not expected that a group of players around 70 years old can claim their teen energy but the sterile production and lengthy tracks (that dip into all of Santana's original touch points) adds a sense of  soullessness to IV.
Opener "Yambu" immediately tries to set the tone of 1974, but lacks that extra oomph and drags a touch, "Come As You Are" does the same thing at the close with more of a Caribbean vibe. "Shake It" picks that energy up in pop metal fashion, but also shows one of the albums reoccurring issues, strange background vocals. In this case a left channel deep Spanish vocal that is out of place and "Freedom In Your Mind" has what seems like the whole group chiming in for sing song sounds and a few of the singers should have clearly bowed out, completely out of tune.

There is a nod to Santana's newer pop fans with "Love Makes The World Go Round", the blues on "Blues Magic", "Suenos" slows it down while "Caminando" gallops back up. At 16 songs the disk runs very long and wandering while going nowhere. Instrumentals like "Fillmore West" could have been cut, but IV is clearly for the players, happy to be playing together again.   

While those songs might not be perfect, they clearly rekindle what Santana became famous for...then there is "Choo-Choo". A horrendous misstep complete with electric beat and old-man-creepy-cliche lyrics, one of the worst songs released this year; the track single-handedly took a star off this rating. It is paired with an instrumental, "All Aboard", but nothing can save this train wreck.  

IV is a case where the single states it all; after an skeevy "sit on my lap" spoken word intro, the band dives into a self referential jam titled "Anywhere You Want To Go" that will bring a smile to boomers faces, being the best track on this release. Longtime fans may enjoy this, but after listening to it a few times (once?) will probably reach for Abraxas or better yet Live At The Fillmore 1968.
Kinda had higher hopes for this one, support the band, buy the disk and peep some video below:

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