By Mike O’Cull
Multiple Grammy Award winner, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and all-around guitar all-star, Carlos Santana proves he’s as fired-up and spiritually connected as he’s ever been on his ferocious new album Blessings and Miracles. The record is set to drop October 15th, 2021 on the BMG imprint and features Carlos making incredible music with a supporting cast of world-class players, some of whom just happen to be part of his family. Santana teams up with heavyweight musicians and producers here including Rob Thomas, Diane Warren, G-Eazy, Chris Stapleton, Steve Winwood, Chick Corea, Rick Rubin, Corey Glover, Kirk Hammett, Ally Brooke, and Narada Michael Walden. His wife Cindy Blackman Santana puts down some of her outstanding drumming and listeners are also indulged by epic performances from his son Salvador Santana (keys and vocals) and his daughter Stella Santana (vocals). The set is one of the most inspired releases of Santana’s long career and is one long, genre-smashing party.
Carlos Santana is one of the most important and prolific guitarists in the history of rock music. Based in San Francisco, Santana pioneered an innovative Afro-Latin-blues-rock fusion sound in the 1960s that had never been heard before and has spent his life since then taking it around the world. He’s won ten Grammy Awards, three Latin Grammys, received the Kennedy Center Honors Award, the Billboard Latin Music Awards’ Lifetime Achievement honor, the Billboard Century Award, and is considered to be one of the best and most identifiable guitar players of all time. He rocked the crowd at Woodstock, recorded timeless tracks including “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman,” and “Smooth,” and has carved out a musical legacy that anyone interested in superb guitar music needs to absorb.
Blessings and Miracles could well be taken as a sign of Santana’s possible status as an immortal. He absolutely owns his style and sound and has only become more expressive and focused with the passage of time. A track like the stunning instrumental “Santana Celebration” goes as hard as the Santana Band of the early days. Powered by the muscular sound of Cindy Blackman Santana’s drumming, the cut taps directly into Santana’s innovative psychedelic Latin blues/rock style that exploded all over the Woodstock stage in 1969. His guitar work is fearless and solid and Carlos remains one of the few players who can be identified inside of three notes.
“Joy” puts Santana and country giant Chris Stapleton into a blended reggae context that shows both men at the peak of their musicality. Santana’s guitar and Stapleton’s vocals make an illuminated pairing that feels mystical and otherworldly and will easily carry you away. “Move” reunites Carlos and Matchbox 20 singer Rob Thomas who went big together in the late 90s, this time with the added vocal skills of American Authors. The track is an undeniable banger with a heavy chorus, multicultural verses, and a sweet guitar break. It’s got all the hit single chromosomes it needs to become a worldwide smash just like “Smooth” did back in the dial-up days.
Each song on the album has its own seductive charms and the highlights are many. Steve Winwood aces his way through a complete reinvention of the hymn-like classic “A Whiter Shade of Pale” that takes the familiar ballad to an entirely new place. Latin percussion breathes new life into this old friend and Winwood responds in kind, as moving a voice as has ever existed. Santana gets his rock on with Living Colour singer Corey Glover on the pumping jam “Peace Power.” The high-octane track is once again driven by Cindy Blackman Santana on the drums and Glover’s vocals match her intensity beat-for-beat.
Carlos rocks even harder on the metallic “America For Sale.” He teams up with Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett and Death Angel vocal smasher Marc Osegueda on this psycho-metal, politically-themed brutalizer that delivers a message you may or may not agree with. It’s nothing like you’ve ever heard Santana do in the past and shows how effectively he can fit into any setting he encounters.
Blessings and Miracles is going to be a strong listen for Santana fans, one that not only functions but succeeds on several distinct levels. The way Santana continually recreates himself in each new era without losing his core greatness is downright supernatural. Get this record into your speakers and feel yourself come back to life.
Listen to “Whiter Shade of Pale” feat. Steve Winwood
Blessings and Miracles pre-order link
Carlos Santana website