Santana harks back to the Latin rock psychedelia of the golden years

Santana harks back to the Latin rock psychedelia of the golden years

Five years ago, on June 7, 2019, the 25th album was released Carlos Santana “Africa speaks”. The recording sessions of the album took place at the Shangri La Studio in Malibu (California) with the artistic supervision of the producer Rick Rubin. The Mexican-born guitarist, in his perpetually laid-back style, described it as “a joyous and inspiring ten-day period,” with most of the songs requiring just one take. The following is the review he wrote for us Claudio Todesco.

“Every single thing was conceived here in Africa, the cradle of civilization,” recites Carlos Santana in the opening of “Africa speaks”. The phrase is the gateway to a record in which the guitarist mixes African music with Latin rock, rock-blues, funk, fusion, old psychedelia. Even though it does not contain memorable songs or out of the ordinary inventions, the album convinces with the strength of the performances, the rhythmic charge, the joyful fury. Without doing anything, or so it would seem, producer Rick Rubin gives the public a Carlos Santana who is less pleasant and forcibly seductive than that of the all-star projects.

“Africa speaks” is first and foremost a record by Santana, a band that today includes members of the 90s lineup such as bassist Benny Rietveld and percussionist Karl Perazzo, and then the guitarist's wife Cindy Blackman on drums, keyboardist David K. Mathews, guitarist Tommy Anthony. The singers Andy Vargas and Ray Greene are involved in the backing vocals as the lead voice is that of Buika, a singer born in Mallorca to parents from Equatorial Guinea, already winner of a Latin Grammy. She has a passionate, powerful and flexible way of singing, and a gravelly and raw timbre, almost masculine, not at all regimented by the laws of pop, perfect for an intense album that harks back to the psychedelic Latin rock of the golden years.

Sung mostly in Spanish, recorded over the course of about ten days, “Africa speaks” is an exuberant and colorful work that begins with the propitiatory rite of the title track and continues for another hour in a triumph of high-pitched guitar sounds , runs on the Hammond, congas carpets, great vocal performances. It's a collective effort. Santana extracts his characteristic timbre from the guitar and centers remarkable melodic phrases even if the solos that enter into memory and history inevitably belong to the past. He surrounds himself with various co-authors, including Buika herself for the lyrics, adapts “Abatina” by Calypso Rose written among others by Manu Chao and transforms it into “Breaking down the door”, a cumbia with guest his son Salvador and Ray Greene on trombone. And here and there he even quotes himself, why not.

And again, he gives voice to the “invisibles” of our society in “Los invisibles” based on “Berra berra” by Rachid Taha, goes off on a tangent with solos supported by the inexhaustible energy of Perazzo's congas and his wife's drums, hosts Laura Mvula on vocals in “Blue skies”, one of the two songs in English, a sort of 9-minute long jazzy magic ritual.

He plays with funk in “Paraisos quemados” with the help of Rietveld, another excellent co-star of the album, and places a song like “Yo me lo merezco” which starts like something by Pearl Jam and ends with a solo by others times of 3 minutes. In short, Santana puts his most pop and alluring things behind him to record music rooted in history, but not caricatural, a record that may not be surprising, but passionate, rough and successful.