Today was a Santana I – IV kinda day. I had previously mentioned the acquisition of Santana I and Abraxas in this blog… but I didn’t ever mention Santana III, with the musicians known as the “Woodstock-era lineup” of Santana, Schon, Rolie, Brown, Shrieve, Areas and Carabello.
III was Santana’s third hit record in as many years, their second #1 album and the first to feature a 17 year old Neal Schon on guitar. These three records have been among my favorites for as long as I can remember, although always in cassette, CD or other form… until finally had on vinyl within the past year. Their jazzy, bluesy, Latin-y mixed soul really suits a mild spring afternoon!
New to the mix is the 2016 release Santana IV… reuniting (as much as possible) the Woodstock-era lineup, minus Brown (d. September 4, 2000) and Areas (reason unknown) and including the bass player and percussionist from Santana’s touring band.
I was excited to hear rumors of this album a year or two ago, but also nervous that Rob Thomas or some other pop A-hole would be enlisted to foul the thing all up! I’m happy to report that my fears were unfounded… with the only guest spot on the record filled by one of the Isley Brothers!
This is a substantial album… four sides and clocking in at just over an-hour-and-a-quarter, and does contain a bit of what some might consider filler. But this is Santana filler, so I was OK with it! The album opener, Yambu, hearkens back to the classic album’s instrumental opening tracks announcing that this is, indeed, a new Santana record. The single released, Anywhere You Want to Go, features a Gregg Rolie (born this date, 1947 in Seattle!) vocal that sounds every bit as good as his 1970s tone.
Listening to IV next to I-III, the former seems less youthful… less reckless. Polished of flaws by great studio production, IV feels like an airplane that has managed to climb out of the turbulence and the pilot has turned off the “Fasten Seat Belts” sign… you are free to wander around the cabin and the cocktail carts are on their way.
The real treat for me was the back and forth guitar interplay between Santana and Schon… Neal not letting Carlos rest on his laurels!
So, 45 years on and we finally have a proper Santana record, hooray! It was a surprise for me to learn that the driving force behind the project was Neal Schon. In a USA Today article, Santana is quoted as saying “It was one person who made this thing become what it is, it’s Neal Schon,” … “He stayed on me and kept riding me to do something together…Neal is the one who made us believe this was the perfect time for us to create this music one more time.”
Schon responded “This has been a long-time dream for me to make this happen,”
I’m glad you persisted, Neal!