Santana // ‘Blessings and Miracles’ // Album Review
Always one of the most distinctive and creative guitar players around, Carlos Santana has been releasing albums since his ground-breaking titular debut in 1969, his band’s profile already high following a head-turning performance at that year’s Woodstock Festival that captured the hearts and minds of all who witnessed it. Still, with the core Latin America blues-based sound, the man and his outfit have seen some changes over the years, their fortunes have dipped slightly at times as new fads come and go but the fanbase has always been true and the quality of the material never in doubt.
After a somewhat thin patch commercially, Santana saw their stock rise considerably with the release of 1999’s ‘Supernatural’, a string of guest vocalists and musicians adding their own weight and talents to proceedings. A reinvention of sorts, ‘Supernatural’ teamed Santana with a number of disparate figures from the expected in Eric Clapton and Dave Matthews to more slightly left-field choices such as Everlast, CeeLo Green and Wyclef Jean and the mix worked brilliantly. With the lead single ‘Smooth’, featuring Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, setting the radio waves alight the outfit had another huge hit on their hands. Since then, a string of similarly star-studded albums has liberally peppered their output as artists queued up to join in with the maestro and ‘Blessings and Miracles’ is the latest in this pedigree line.
From the off, we’re thrown into an inventive world where atmospheric opener ‘Ghosts of Future Pull / New Light’ transitions into ‘Santana Celebration’, a Latin American dance party that resonates with all that people have known and loved about the band throughout the years. So far, so normal but the ever-inventive six-stringer adds interesting electronic pulses to ‘Rumbalero’ and things really take off with ‘Joy’ as Chris Stapleton adds his beautifully characterful and gravel edged voice to proceedings. Rob Thomas crops up on ‘Move’ in an echo of their previous smash hit together, trying to prove that lightning does indeed strike twice in the same place but this time not quite having the impact as ‘Smooth’, the style a little too familiar but highly enjoyable none the less.
Maybe because the original is such a towering classic, there’s something about the cover of ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ that doesn’t quite hit the mark, despite bringing together a brilliant song, Santana’s peerless fretwork and the not inconsiderable singing talents of Steve Winwood, this version somehow fails to gel. Fortunately, this is the only dip as ‘Break’, featuring the exquisite singing of Ally Brooke, the rap/rock gumbo that is ‘She’s Fire’ and an incendiary ‘Peace Power’ with vocals by the ever-outstanding Cory Glover tear things up in no uncertain terms.
A previous guest collaborator in the form of Metallica’s Kirk Hammett turns up the volume on ‘America For Sale’, the beginning of the track giving the extraordinary sound of something akin to a truly feral ZZ Top and a guitar playoff between the two six-stringers to lights up the sky. ‘Breathing Underwater’ comes as a cool breeze after the attack of the previous brace of tracks, a soulful delight that touches hearts and brings a much-needed change of tempo, allowing the album to breathe. With its lush vocals and the swooping and climbing fretwork, the track is a highlight of the release, its construction one by a master craftsman and brings the spiritual side of Santana well and truly to the fore.
The propulsive ‘Mother Yes’ dips back into his 60’s and 70’s heritage, the playing as dazzling as we’ve come to expect and it’s just down to the hat trick of ‘Song For Cindy’, ‘Angel Choir / All Together’ and ‘Ghosts of Future Pull’ to close the album in fine style, each hitting exactly the right tones as they range from the soulful to the effortlessly muscular. There’s not a lot that can be said about the playing of Carlos Santana that hasn’t been repeated endlessly over the years but, rest assured, this is an unfeasibly high benchmark of style, grace, feel and genuine soul throughout. Forever pushing onwards and upwards, he only aims to challenge himself and to bring music for the whole world to enjoy, Santana once again demonstrates what an incredible artist he is. Aptly title, ‘Blessings and Miracles’ is what you’ll discover here and you’ll be inordinately glad you made the trip.
Blessings & Miracles is out now via BMG.
Review: Paul Monkhouse
Santana – Ghost of Future Pull / New Light
Santana – Santana Celebration
Santana (feat. Salvador Santana & Asdru Sierra) – Rumbalero
Santana (feat. Chris Stapleton) – Joy
Santana (feat. Rob Thomas & American Authors) – Move
Santana (feat. Steve Winwood) – Whiter Shade of Pale
Santana (feat. Ally Brooke) – Break
Santana (feat. Diane Warren & G-Eazy) – She’s Fire
Santana (feat. Corey Glover) – Peace Power
Santana (feat. Kirk Hammett & Marc Osegueda) – America For Sale
Santana (feat. Stella Santana, Avi Snow, MVCA) – Breathing Underwater
Santana – Mother Yes
Santana – Song for Cindy
Santana (feat. Chick Corea & Gayle Moran Corea) – Angel Choir / All Together
Santana – Ghost of Future Pull Part 2
Santana // ‘Blessings and Miracles’ // Album Review