Triple Played: Santana back in the groove
One of my musical heroes, Carlos Santana, recently released his new CD “Shape Shifter,” while another one of my musical heroes, Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse, will release a new CD titled “Americana” on June 5. Both albums were years in the making, so to speak.
I have been a fan of Santana since I first heard the single “Evil Ways.” My cousin Gary had the “Abraxas” LP, and I was hooked when I heard it.
Santana’s first three LPs are all classics. Santana was the last of the great bands to come out of the late 1960s psychedelic scene in San Francisco. In doing so they introduced the masses to a Latin influenced rock ‘n’ roll, setting the music establishment on its ear in the process.
Santana was a dominant force on the music scene and the charts from 1968–1975 and then changed to a more introspective and jazzy style with Carlos Santana taking more control as the band changed members starting after their third LP, “Santana.”
Santana remained a commercial success for 20 more years before falling off in the mid 1990s. “Supernatural” changed that in 1999. Loaded with guest vocalists who also contributed songs, it became Santana’s biggest selling record, going platinum 15 times and winning the band nine Grammy’s and three Latin Grammy’s.
“Shaman,” Santana’s 2002 album, had the same guest singer format as its predecessor but was a much weaker effort in my opinion. So when I first heard that there was a new Santana record, I had mixed feelings about it.
Fortunately, I was in for a surprise as “Shape Shifter” is a throwback to the old school Santana sound of the late ‘60s. Twelve of the 13 tracks are instrumentals and Carlos Santana wrote or co-wrote 11 of them. “Shape Shifter,” “Metatron,” “Nomad” and “Mr. Szabo” are my favorites so far.
I really like the album, and it shows that Carlos Santana is still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to playing the guitar.
And with that, let’s turn to Neil Young, who is one restless soul.
All you have to do is listen to his first four albums or any four of his back-to-back releases to realize that he can’t sit still. In fact, in the 1980s he was sued by David Geffen for “not being himself” and releasing two albums in a row that were not commercially oriented. Young fans who know that Young has never “been himself” when it comes to his music.
When I first heard about “Americana,” I thought it would be like “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” or “Rust Never Sleeps” knowing Crazy Horse’s rocking style. After doing some research, I found out that “Americana” is an album of cover songs. Not just the regular cover songs but covers of some original Americana songs. “This Land Is Your Land,” “Clementine,” “Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll Be Comin’ Around The Mountain),” “Tom Dula,” “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” “Oh Susannah,” “Gallows Pole,” “High Flyin’ Bird,” “Travel On,” “Get A Job” and “God Save the Queen” are the 11 covers that make up “Americana.”
Thanks to YouTube, I have heard “Clementine,” “Jesus’ Chariot” and “Oh Susannah,” and I must say I have never heard them the rocking way that Young and Crazy Horse play them.
I definitely want to hear more.