The Isley Brothers & Santana
Power Of Peace
A few copies of this release should be dropped over North Korea, I think..and then over Washington. Both these Sony acts have long promoted peace, love and understanding and their linking up to create and combine is a laudable notion. Twist my arm and I’ll admit I would have liked a chunk of new material but hearing what these positive veteran muso’s do with known songs of others is a trip in itself. And consider how many singers and players these cats have inspired! me, certainly. Timeless hit records have been attained by both groups and radio owes them. I met Ernie at The Royal Albert Hall in The Green Room after an Isleys show…meantime singer Ronald was four-deep in clamouring females…and he was the most gentlemanly guy you could imagine, happy to talk guitars, songs and setlists.
So what material are our players here interpreting? Read on, dear visitors…
Are You Ready is a conga-led shuffling stomper, setting the scene for these musicians assembling, heading for the minute-mark the wah rhythm guitar chugs into earshot and soon Carlos is punching out guitar bursts between Ronnie Isley’s forceful vocal lines. The pattering beat takes over your frame and if you can dance, you will! Total Destruction To Your Mind next and jaunty piano takes us into the pacy number, squidges of Ernie guitar trade with Carlos’ biting lead runs. The vocal delivery is firm and spirited, the piano sparkles and the band of mainly Santana crew make things charge along. Carlos’ wah figures swim under Ernie’s skywards legato lines. It’s a party, for sure….
Higher Ground is given a thumping blues-rock treatment with awesome bass runs and chattering clavinet and congas. A powerful song already, this composition is a fist-shaking tour de force. Santana burns away, hitting trills and triads. The rap bit is a tad redundant. God Bless The Child is a complete change of mood, the blues ballad is all restrained piano, with Ronnie singing in his high register in this triumph of minimal arrangement, The arrival of a warm Hammond keeps things in the church-house. The chord sequence is beautiful and respectfully imparted here.
I Remember is an original from Mrs Santana, our drummer here and singer on this cut. Following on nicely in the sequence it’s a Wonderish melody. This is one gorgeous duet, decorated by airy guitar runs here and there. Reminds me of the cosmic soul recordings of Syreeta. Body Talk is soft-funk, the kind that these players can produce with swing and seemingly total ease. It’s not the Imagination song but a close cousin in its slinky feel. By the three-minute mark, the guitarists are feeding in links, Ernie with his flanged unicorn sound. It’s a shame it fades as it reaches five minutes…
Depping on guitar at no notice one time, the band showed me the set list with five minutes to stage time. It included Gypsy Woman..” Muddy, Curtis or Don? “ I enquired. It was the Mayfield song of that name. This also turns out to be the one here and Ronnie – of course! – wrings the maximum soul out of the composition, so it is a highlight here. The dub bass is a good touch. I have probably heard far too many versions of the Chess label classic I Just Want To Make Love To You. Yet those young roustabouts Black Stone Cherry have just recorded it. And here it is, AGAIN! Can this wonderful team add anything fresh? A whomping beat is used and Ernie sprays liquid licks all over the first verse. It’s energetic and rhythmic, but not the best choice imho.
Love, Peace, Happiness bursts into life, wondrous drumming and we’re off into a driven soul rocker that has a touch of rock musical Hair. Charles Boomer and Cornell Carter step up to sing and bring an insistent EWF energy to the tune. Clean piano brings in Ronnie on the 60s pop gem What The World Needs Now, taking his time to sing the back off the song, the band holding back. At 1:49 the pace settles and the song proceeds, to me it’s a very fresh interpretation.
Of course Marvin Gaye penned Mercy Mercy Me for his What’s Going On, the album Motown finally learned to love when it sold lots of units. This starts with piano and doesn’t stray far from the original but it’s such a good rendition you just cannot carp. Lounge piano tinkles away as the brush-drummed Let The Rain Fall On Me commences and Ronnie gives a masterclass in Rat Pack singing..this set certainly rings the changes! Closing track Let There Be Peace On Earth is electric gospel with lovely acoustic guitar and pacy conga’s and gentle female chorale. It sounds like a bit like a Christmas Special on Mexican TV! Then Ronnie starts to sing and.. well it’s a bizarre mix of Latin Rock and The Andy Williams Show. You think I’m kidding? Get a listen!
So – a celebration of musical styles by master players and singers that does sound as though it was a very warm gathering indeed.
(Thanks to Glenn Sargeant for sourcing this release)
The Isley Brothers & Santana’s new album ‘Power Of Peace’ is out now on Sony.
You can purchase it from Amazon UK here: http://amzn.to/2hWdpMb