The original Santana band recorded its last album, Santana III, back in 1971. (Apparently the label also released a Legacy Edition which included a complete Fillmore West concert. I am definitely picking that up). That band then dissolved, with guitarist Neal Schon going on to co-found Journey.
I guess the guys stayed in touch all these years because in April 2016, the same lineup released Santana IV, implying they’re picking up where they left off. (Missing are bassist David Brown, who passed away several years ago, and percussionist Jose “Chepito” Areas. Chepito is still very much with us so your guess is as good as mine as to why he was not invited to the party.)
So how is the album? Well, I’ll start by saying that to no one’s surprise, 45 or so years later none of them play worse. Very tight band and clearly the “juice” was still there when they came together to play.
But that aside, while there’s some really good stuff here, I’m not hearing anything in the classic vein of “Soul Sacrifice,” “Oye Como Va,” or “Black Magic Woman.” Or for that matter, “Smooth.”
But like I said, there is some good stuff. Here’s a hot little number called “Shake It.”
One reviewer I read bitched about the lyrics of some of the songs and I definitely see his point. It’s no longer the Sixties and so a song titled “Love Makes the World Go Round,” with sappy lyrics detracts from the song. There’s another one where the singer asks the girl to “sit on his lap.” That just sounds dumb, especially considering the guy’s in his sixties.
All the more reason to feature one of Carlos’ trademark instrumental tunes, “Sueňos:”
I found that a little of their sound went a long way and it was difficult to listen to the album all the way through without a break. Sometimes I think there was something to be said for vinyl that only contained 45 minutes.
Here’s a tune, “Leave Me Alone,” that has a nice feel and you can get up and boogie to it with your partner:
Now that we can listen to entire albums online – in the old days we’d borrow them from friends – my philosophy is that if it’s really good, I’ll buy it. I want the musicians to get the money. In this case I can’t see myself buying the whole album, but probably just a handful of the tracks I really like.
And I like what I hear enough to hope that they do a follow-up, definitely with a better lyricist and with some really magical tunes, ones that have more “personality” if you know what I mean.
So if you’re a Santana fan, definitely worth a listen. If not, go back and listen to their classic stuff first (Santana, Abraxas, Santana III.) And then – with a different band – the very fine Supernatural.
Three stars (out of four).