Fans of the classic Santana sound of 1969-1972 will not be disappointed by the release of Santana IV.
The album is a solid throwback for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist and most of the original line up; it has passionate edge that made Santana a San Francisco Bay Area rock scene highlight. Carlos is joined by band mates of 1969-72; Michael Carabello, Gregg Rolie, Michael Schieve and Neil Schon along with current journeyman of Santana. The music on this LP isn’t trying to sale an aging artist to contemporary listeners; It’s all about the music. The bond this group shared and what they have learned from their journey apart for so many years plays throughout an hour and 15 minutes.
Gregg Rolie; who left Santana to join Schon in Journey in 1973 brings his signature organ and vocals back to Santana; his contributions were missed since his departure (Buddy Miles from 1987’s Freedom the only exception). Songs such as Shake It, Anywhere You Want To Go and Blues Magic are as earthy and driving as the vocals in No One To Depend On, Evil Ways and Black Magic Women. The album’s only guest vocalist is the amazing Ronald Isley of The Isley Brothers for two tracks (Love Makes The World Go Around and Freedom in Your Mind).
With guitarist and Journey co-founder Neil Schon, the classic guitar layers of old shine out. Schon keeps Santana on the 16 track LP from having to overplay and allowing the rhythm guitarist to carry on lead duties; which allows for some creative back and forth between Carlos and Neil such as Echizo, Fillmore East and especially the ending track Forgiveness. Along with the Gregg and Neil; the timekeepers of the original core in Michael Carabello and Michael Schieve are as tight and fun as you can recall in tracks such as Choo Choo, Caminando and All Aboard.
Santana IV is a welcomed addition to the vast Santana catalog; although I would skip everything after 1972’s Caravanserai and pick up with Santana IV. As good as the LP is; the set list could have benefited from another comb through to bring the album’s total track time to an hour long. In the end, this line up of Santana shared their amazing abilities together once again. These musicians are wiser and humbled by success and failure. Santana IV will definitely reignite the fire for the classic line up sound and encourage current followers to take a listen of Santana during 1969 to 1972.