Forty years. It’s only two little words, but that’s a long time for a band to be apart. This is especially true of Santana, the hard rocking Latin American quintet from San Francisco.

Yet effortlessly, amazingly, magically, the original Woodstock lineup comes together to create a sound every bit as cool as it was back when they made their first three albums. They make it official by naming their project ‘Santana IV’.  A spiritual successor if ever there was one.

A sound that is one part bluesy, two parts jazzy and many more parts funky makes up ‘Santana IV’. Brimming with songs that take us back to the band’s glory days, but made fresh with the sparkle of modernism, synthesizers add an air of serene detachment to the album, while tribal accents produced by the conga keep up the rhythm. Meanwhile, lead guitarists Neal Schon and Carlos Santana spar, playing as if, between them, they might create a hurricane to spread their joy all over the world.

Standout tracks include the singer/keyboardist Gregg Rolie’s ‘Anywhere You Want to Go’, a recreation of the group’s 1971 hit ‘Oye Como Va’, and ‘Choo Choo’, which combines all of these elements in a flurry of musical inspiration.

‘Santana IV’ may be remembered for its fiery guitar duets between Santana and Schon, which give off vibes of Gary Moore and are even vaguely, but sweetly, reminiscent of Hank Marvin’s delicately controlled grooves in ‘Suenos’ , a minimalist, acoustic vs electric track that emanates tranquility. However, one might hope that it may also be remembered for its sentiments. Though the lyrics are simple, and the singers outclassed by the musicians in terms of skill, and extended versions of instrumental tracks such as ‘Echizo’ certainly couldn’t hurt, the content of the songs themselves shine with optimism.

However, with drummer Mike Shrieve and conguero Mike Carabello as well as Schon and Rolie jamming with Carlos again, after they had left to form Journey in 1973, the strengths of the album they produced are also its weaknesses. The flow being so natural and familiar and the band being so eager to produce music together has to led to an album that is a little too long and multi-layered.  An external producer may have helped produce a neater, fresher record, and yet, this is a criticism without much basis in reason.

Untamed creativity is just what their fans wanted, and what the band themselves needed. Although ‘Santana IV’ may not prove too successful in the charts, this remains an album that can not only take you back to the ‘70s, but to rarely visited places in your imagination too. The foaming mouth of a volcano, the feral growl of a tiger, the flight of something unknown overhead…

‘Santana IV’ is out now via Universal Music New Zealand Limited.

This Santana IV article was written by Ed Philips, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.

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