Like the Phoenix, Santana IV is a rebirth, as big and bright as before.

Artist: Santana
Label: Santana IV Records
Release Date: April 15, 2016
Duration: 16 tracks, 1:15:26

Touted as a ‘rebirth’ of the original Santana band with Carlos Santana on lead guitar, Neal Shoen on guitar, , singer-organist Gregg Rolie, drummer Michael Shrieve and percussionist Michael Carabello Santana IV is the product of these original members writing and recording over a three year period. After a 45 year separation their chemistry is ever-present throughout having produced the same Latin rhythms infused with blues, rock and an occasional shot of jazz.

Based on the pre-release of three songs with vocals, I was distraught thinking the classic Santana instrumentals would again be replaced by guest vocalists (ex. two songs featuring Ronald Isley). With great relief, I found after listening to the full release that 4 (5 if you discount the marginal vocals on “Forgiveness”) of the songs were instrumentals. Of the 16 songs in the collection, 12 portray the original lifeblood of the first three albums and on one or two have a brief ‘hook’ from earlier songs.

“Yambu” opens, both funky and bright with primitive, spicy Latin heat. Beginning with keyboards similar to “Treat”, “Anywhere You Want To Go” has the same great keys, percussion and rhythm as early efforts. Moving and shaking, both guitars play of each other making for a hot summer tune.

Of the instrumentals, “Echizo” showcases Santana who has lost nothing of his guitar prowess, “You And I” builds from a slow, solemn beginning to soaring heights and back again while ”Sueños” is mellow and heart-felt with Santana making the guitar weep. The nearly eight minute “Fillmore East” tribute is an adventure in psych rock.

Big horns with a big arena-like sound give “Caminando” the energy of early Santana sound. “Blues Magic” has a deep and dark flavor while Santana’s lead guitar gives an adventuress feel. Overall this song has a great blues sound. The percussion, rhythm and vocals of “Leave Me Alone” reincarnate the early Santana with shades of “Evil Ways”.

“Choo Choo”, a sexy vocal number takes flight then transitions into “All Aboard”, an instrumental rocker with an energy all its own bringing the listener back to Santana’s early live jams of the late ‘60s / early ‘70s. “Forgiveness” closes with a slow and telling portrayal of an act and related remorse having fine vocals mixing with both guitars, everything working together to color the picture.

Big Latin percussion and rhythm, ethereal guitar and occasional bilingual vocals bring us back to summers long ago. Like the Phoenix, Santana IV is a rebirth, as big and bright as before. Old strains return, flush with remembrance yet anew with joy and brightness. Let’s hope the original musicians continue to collaborate. Much more of this please…


Scott S Mertens