Thursday, June 27, 2019


I don't know about you, but I love playing with words, adding and subtracting the prefixes that conjure up meaning, sometimes discovering more about the derivation of the meaning in a more nuanced way. This can creep up on you in a most insidious way, itself making me wonder why sidious isn't used more often, or ever, as its opposite. (Which led me again further to an interesting website which, in turn, has me wondering why no Darth Depende, but that is another story.)

OK, the/a state of independence aside, let's drill down into what there is to celebrate. Over here, of course, we don't, July 4th being just the day the state of dependency on this nation was lost. (It would be a holiday here every day, were a party thrown every time the once pink parts of the map changed colour.) And, as the recent ghastly kowtowing to Trump demonstrated, perhaps is not now the parent state now dependent on the child? And, in terms of folk to rely on, leading the country and all that, child really is begetting on the man......... If the picture above says anything, surely it is that. Anyhow, that's yer ten pennorth of politics, let's talk Santana.

Just how many of the Woodstock class of '69 are still performing, and, possibly, still performing at the top of their game? Carlos Santana has just brought out another record that seems to be suggesting he is doing just that. At a time and an age when merely to issue a new release can herald automatic fanfares of a return to form, often more, its true, in hope than in anticipation and reception, he may well have cracked it. Of course, there are a number of Santana's, the frantic percussion heavy latino rock that burnt the stage alive at Max Yasgur's farm, the mellower and jazzier mid period, morphing into a mystical fusioneer and, latterly, the elder statesman pumping out largely lacklustre material, "enriched" by special guests. I am a fan mainly of the first period, up to and including 'III', 'Caravanserai' onward, through 'Borboletta' and the John McLaughlin diversions sometimes failing to hold full interest. (The 'Caravanserai' mob here announce my soon to be arranged period of pillory, but I have tried, really, I have tried.) I think that once he had that hit with the fella from, FFS, Matchbox 20, I knew the rot had set in, and 'Guitar Solos' seemed to cement that, even if the conceit of that project, in my opinion, was no worse than any other vocalist thrashing through an album of covers. Santana's voice is, after all, his guitar.

I had high hopes for Santana 'IV', the old band brought back after their own stab at recreating thatt same time period, but both it and 'Abraxas Pool' disappointed. The next outing, hand in hand with the residual Isley Brothers, 'Power of Peace', was better, if seeming a vehicle more for they than he. So why should this one, 'Africa Speaks,' be any different, as they too were acclaimed as the rediscovered grail? Could it be the presence of Rick Rubin, the catalyst behind many a revitalised career, from Johnny Cash to Neil Diamond? Or is the presence of one Concha Buika, a veritable powerhouse of afro-flamenco influences? I have been following her career for some time, marvelling at her vocal prowess in several genres. Santana has never much used a female voice to any great extent, if Flora Purim will forgive me, and, if it has taken Rubin to sow this seed, well done that man. Listening to this record has had me excited about Carlos Santana for the first time in many a long year. OK, it is arguably a Buika vehicle with added Carlos, but the namecheck will boost the sales no end, the hopeful ever hopeful. It is outside SMM's usual structure to put up any video from music so new, and I am not going to change that now*, but here is some Buika to whet any appetite.

So, when you ain't got no one to depend on, when your old heroes are all out to pasture and recycling processed self-parody, who are you going to call. I'm thinking Rick Rubin might be your man. Not bad for an old hip-hop producer, say I

*Go on, then, no one's looking.....

It's speaking, you listening?

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