Santana IV Records
It was always going to be a gamble and it’s been long overdue – and while Santana IV is not (consistently) great and is far, far too long (who releases 76-minute single albums in this day and age?) it is the best thing Carlos Santana has been involved with since 1990s Spirits Dancing In The Flesh. Somehow, and I realised this straight away, that’s barely a compliment. But this project was all about rejuvenated Carlos – he has been on a Grammy-winning spree that has reduced his music down to its very worst. And then lower, even, than that.
The endless duetting just had to fucking stop. The absurd covers. The phoned-in concepts and scribble-pattern guitar solos. Stop. Stop! STOP!
So whilst it’s good news to hear these players again in this configuration – drummers Michael Shrieve and Michael Carabello (percussion) churn some beautiful grooves and Gregg Rolie’s keys are a crucial component – what really had to happen was Carlos had to fire. And he does that, arguably, through doing the best kind of duetting: threading lines with Neal Schon (Journey) no slouch in the playing department himself.
Santana IV wasn’t ever about the actual record – it’s about the thrill and idea of this original band back together to play live. Santana – the band – was always better live than on record. Always. Even when those early albums thrilled somewhat.
So there’s a lot of material here that’ll slot in around old favourites.
But there are some tired, horrid clichés. Rolie sounds like nothing more than an old, out of touch creep singing about girls looking fine and needing to slide on over and onto his lap. Creep. Creep! CREEP! It’s better when Ronald Isley guests (Love Makes The World Go Round) though Santana songs have never really managed to rise above cliché.
Thankfully we have a few instrumentals – again, part of the band’s strength. Hearing Carlos’ voice those lines and then the groove lift up underneath.
So for that alone we can be thankful. Just trim it to suit – listen to it in bursts and skip some of the filler-fodder (or which there’s a lot).
Once or twice you get a whiff of the old band though. And that’s kinda lovely.