Nearly fifty years on from their formation in California in 1967, Santana the esteemed Latin Rock band have released the deceivingly titled Santana IV earlier this year. IV, their twenty-third studio album to date, has the impressive runtime of an hour and a quarter some of which can be credited to side-sprawlers such as Fillmore East and Forgiveness. In large though this album is a wonderfully scored collection of upbeat and smooth Latin Rock tracks with very little filler bar the slow paced You And I which takes away somewhat from the overall fast paced nature of the rest of the album.
Opening with the tight guitar riffs and a funky bass line, Yambu is the perfect mood setter to sink any listener into the album to follow. Yambu’s successor Shake It is far more reliant on its rock heritage than the previous track, with brief glimpses into its Latinate origin provided by the backing vocals. The optimistic Love Makes The World Go Round features an impressive organ solo reminiscent somewhat of the stylistic choices made by the Doors – possibly an echo of Santana’s origins rooted in the 1960s. The instrumental tracks All Aboard and Echizo also greatly contribute to the buoyant, and uplifting motifs explored through this album but to this point it must be remembered that this album is not a one trick pony by any means. Whilst these upbeat songs are without a doubt covered in Santana’s hallmarks the band clearly rummages through their repertory to create a selection of smoother tracks that they have also become renowned for.
The undeniably smooth Sueños and Blues Magic offer a relaxing ambience, yet Blues Magic’s psychedelic tilt prevents the sanitisation of these smoother tracks; without this edge Santana IV would be at risk of being reduced to mere background dinner music and not the listening experience it truly is. Exploring a Gypsy Kings-esque feel, Santana bridges the gaps between the faster paced rock songs and their smoother counterparts with entries such as Anywhere You Want To Go as well as Freedom In Your Mind. This successfully prevents the listener from being thrown between extremes whilst exploring the spectrum of Latin Rock to its fullest extent.
In all this is a superb album, which highlights the sheer expertise of a band that has honed their skills for half a century. Yes, band members have come and gone in this time (enough to form about a dozen seperate bands) but their sound has only ever been added to and refined throughout theses changes.