BMG [Release date 15.10.21]
To gain insight into how Santana is well respected in the music industry, one need only take a quick glance at the varied list of collaborators he’s assembled on his new album.
From his early 70s debut, Carlos Santana has always operated at two different speeds, “musicians musician” and “mainstream rock God”. ‘Blessings and Miracles’ finds him squarely in the second mode, doubtless trying to recapture the success of his 3 x Platinum 1999-released album, ‘Supernatural’.
This approach is evident from the format of high profile guest stars and the return of specific collaborators like Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas.
Once the atmospheric intro is out of the way the album launches with ‘Santana Celebration’, a familiar but nevertheless joyful instrumental invitation to the band’s world of virtuoso guitar-work and Latin rhythms.
One of the album’s strengths is conversely one that may be off putting to some; sonically the record is all over the place, lurching from the likes of electronic dance track ‘Rumbalero’ to reggae infused ‘Joy’, which finds Chris Stapleton taking the lead vocal. ‘Joy’ is indicative of a number of tracks on this album, in that it sounds sort-of familiar, there are several instances where the listener has a pleasing sense of déjà vu, it has an indefinable polish that just sounds like a Santana standard.
The album’s first single ‘Move’, featuring the aforementioned Rob Thomas, clocks in at a slender 2:45 and is perfectly designed for hip swinging on the dancefloor. Lyrics aren’t as important as moods and to that end ‘Move’ is the definition of feelgood.
At 56 minutes ‘Blessings and Miracles’ could be a bit tighter and there are obvious candidates for the chop, a Steve Winwood fronted cover of Procol Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ is pleasant but inessential.
‘Peace Power’ on the other hand find’s Living Colour’s Corey Glover rip through a call to revolution with his usual gusto. Glover represents one of the finest, underrated voices in rock so it is particularly pleasing to hear him share the studio with a guitar legend.
Talking of Santana’s diverse palette, ‘America For Sale’ finds Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and lead singer of Death Angel, Mark Osegueda deliver an unsurprisingly thick metal critique on corporate America, “America for sale, sell it by the pound!”. Hammett and Santana complement each other well and both guitarists are identifiable and distinctive in the mix.
In-amongst the high profile collaborations, the album’s high point is ‘Song For Cindy’, dedicated to his wife and drummer, Cindy Blackman. This beautiful instrumental starts out small and mellow but unfolds into to a soaring bird of a song, with (appropriately enough for a song dedicated to a drummer) epic drum fills.
‘Blessings And Miracles’ is not particularly groundbreaking but that’s probably not the intent. At 74, Carlos Santana is an artist that still gets a thrill from making music, one need only look at his still exhausting touring schedule for proof of this. There is something quite wholesome and heart-warming to find an ageing rocker that just wants to have fun with his friends. *** ½
Review by Phillip Beamon
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