Santana – IV

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I like Santana… but my interest also has a limited shelf life.  Throw me back to Abraxis, Santana III, Caravanserai or the band’s 1974 live album, Lotus – there’s a lot I really, really like.  BuSantana IV CD Reviewt the band changed, and despite Carlos’ Santana’s sizzling trademark guitar, his body of work has really gone nowhere outside of a surprisingly narrow space of peace, love, and harmony.  For that reason, unless I find a re-mastered old CD in a used bin… for cheap…, then Viva Santana, a best of type selection, has been a steadfast placeholder for the rare mood that I find Santana appropriate.
Carlos’ Santana’s (often preached) commitment to the worldwide spiritual consciousness (etc.) is both what makes him extraordinary and repetitive.  He’s all about positivity, and while he may venture out and explore jazz or “psychedelic” jams, his guitar tone and note choices are always going to point towards a happy place.  That’s a good thing and has worked well for him, but variety is necessarily difficult lacking, oh, say, a brooding or sinister guitar solo.  They lyrics on this album reflect, in much simpler terms, the deepest romantic thoughts of 8th graders written for an audience of 7th graders.  “Love makes the world go round.”  Repeat four times.  It doesn’t get better, and it doesn’t get worse.  The good news is that, whether in English or Spanish, it doesn’t really matter.  They’re serviceable to Santana’s cosmic feel good approach… which leads to great guitar work.

Santana IV features a return of the early 70’s era band lineup, which is at their best, and picks up 45 years later.  By all accounts, this was a happy occasion for the musicians with much of the recording captured in just a couple of takes.  That’s short for saying that most everything is clicking for the band, and with an added dose of musical maturity (not lyrical, gah!) and studio recording quality, the album as a whole is a joy. 

Guitarist Neal Schon, who with keyboardist Gregg Rolie, left the band after Santana III to form Journey, adds a much needed voice to challenge Santana’s tendency to retread his guitar licks.  The result is often superlative for both.  

The album includes a generous 75 minutes of music and there are musical gems everywhere, even if buried in some of the less interesting songs.  I could trim some from my playlist and will over time, but the Santana “mood” usually isn’t satisfied with a single song.  “Black Magic Woman,” “She’s Not There,” and even “Smooth” usually end with a desire for a little more.  The songs here work as well here for a jogging soundtrack as they do for driving in rush hour traffic.  Whatever mystical place Santana imagines, the reality is the music has to fit the activities we have, and for that, I give the CD high marks. 

4 of 5 STARS_thumb

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