RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Santana – IV
Santana IV Records


Rating:  B+

Often talked about, but never realized until now. Over forty years since they last recorded together, the reunion of the quintessential Santana lineup has finally come to fruition with the release of the much anticipated new album entitled IV.

Returning to the fold alongside bandleader / guitarist Carlos Santana are Greg Rollie (keys & vocals), Neal Schon (guitars & vocals), Michael Shrieve (drums) and multi-percussionist Michael Carabello, while long-time and current members Benny Rietveld (bass) and Karl Perazzo (percussion) round out this classic edition of band.

What you get here is a solid seventy five minutes of music that convincingly straddles the line of both the classic sound of the albums that made them famous in the first place, i.e. the self-titled debut, Abraxas and III, along with the distinctly more commercial radio fare from the Supernatural  / Shaman period. For example, for every tip of the hat to the past like the “Evil Way’s” throwback “Anywhere You Want To Go”, the up-tempo A1 funk opener “Yambu” and the searing guitar crunch and heavy percussive workout that makes up “Shake It”, the band also throws in tracks like “Freedom In Your Mind”, one of two songs to feature guest vocalist Ronald Isley, and radio friendly tracks such as “Choo Choo” and “Come As You Are” to ensure the balance is kept. Most of the bases of the overall Santana oeuvre feel like they’re touched upon in some form or another on this album and regardless if that is a good thing or not or whether that was the overall idea going in, it certainly feels like a smart way of keeping the fan base happy.

The playing is impeccable throughout as the magnificent guitar work and synergistic interplay between Schon and Santana naturally make up a big part of the sound as they are given plenty of room to kick back and jam. Greg Rollie’s voice still sounds as strong and as vibrant as ever and the same can also be said for his understated, if sadly at times, underutilized, but superbly rich Hammond B3 work. Shrieve, Rietveld and the duo percussive attack of Carabello and Perazzo flesh out the overall sound flawlessly, if somewhat un-heroically.

The songs don’t always hit the mark on IV, as for this reviewer I would have personally preferred a full-on return to the ‘classic’ sound that the majority of this band represents. The fact that Carlos Santana has hinted at the possibility of this line-up making more music together, can only be seen as a good thing. However, I’m not at all sold on the fact that he needs to bring in more guest musicians, ala the modus operandi of the above mentioned Supernatural / Shaman albums in order to make it work. The resumes of these musicians speak for themselves. Now, all that being said, there are a handful of tracks on this album that are worth the price of the disc alone. For example the eight minute, jazzy, lysergic tinged instrumental “Fillmore East” is a superbly crafted and brilliantly layered tapestry of textured sound that will have any die-hard fan running for the volume knob. “Sueños” is “Samba Pa Ti” for a new generation and “Blues Magic” (my favorite cut on the album) is a straight throwback to the Santana Blues Band period that feels like a gorgeous cross between “As The Years Go Passing By” (a track they used to cover) and Peter Green’s “The Supernatural”, as Carlos fires off a veritable plethora of scorching notes with his trademark vibrato and sustain. Another beautifully layered composition, the epic, seven minute plus track “Forgiveness” brings the curtain down on one of the most anticipated reunions of 2016.  

Buy it! 

Track Listing
Yambu/ Shake It/ Anwhere You Want To Go/ Fillmore East/ Love Makes The World Go Round/ Freedom In Your Mind/ Choo Choo/ All Aboard/ Sueños/ Caminando/ Blues Magic/ Echizo/ Leave Me Alone/ You and I/ Come As You Are/ Forgiveness

  -Ryan “Shake It” Sparks