For more than five decades – from Santana’s earliest days as a groundbreaking Afro-Latin-blues-rock fusion outfit in San Francisco – Carlos Santana has been the visionary force behind artistry that transcends musical genres and generational, cultural and geographical boundaries.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Carlos has just released Blessings and Miracles, another magnificent recording to add to his already staggering discography. Blessings and Miracles presents Multi-Grammy Award-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Carlos Santana in all of his incarnations, playing in myriad styles featuring numerous alluring guitar tones. There are so many points of interest with this record, that it is difficult to know where to begin. From the beautiful short opening track Ghost of Future Pull/New Light, in the vein of Caravanserai’s Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation into the Soul Sacrifice-style Santana Celebration to the hook-laden latin influenced pop track Move with Rob Thomas, you’ll find multi-era splashes of Santana throughout this album. There’s the love song tribute to his wife, Song for Cindy, a poignant jam with the late great Chick Corea and his wife Gayle Moran, also a former Mahavishnu Orchestra member. Latin pop-rock fans will enjoy Rumbalero, a percussion-driven track with his son Salvador, joined by Ozomatali founder “Asdru” Sierra, and then daughter Stella Santana delivers a stunning vocal, along with Avi Snow on Breathing Underwater. A lifetime of ambitious ideas have been packed into this one extraordinary album. As with many recent Santana projects, it’s very much a star studded affair. Steve Winwood performs a heartfelt version of the classic Procol Harum track Whiter Shade of Pale. Diane Warren and G-Easy join forces on the cruisy groove of She’s Fine. Living Colour’s Corey Glover unleashes a powerful vocal performance on the rocker Peace Power. Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda get angry and political on the garage punk flavoured America For Sale.
In Carlos’ own words …
About the album’s title: “The title of this album comes from my belief that we’re born with heavenly powers that allows us to create blessings and miracles,” he says. “The world programs you to be unworthy of those gifts, but we have to utilize light, spirit and soul – they’re indestructible and immutable. Those are the three main elements on this album.”
Santana immersed himself in the creation of Blessings and Miracles over the past two years, serving as producer and collaborating with other record makers and writers such as Diane Warren, Narada Michael Walden, Chris Stapleton, Peter Stengaard and Gregg Wattenberg. The realities of recording during the Covid pandemic created a challenge only in that some musicians were separated geographically, beamed into sessions via technology; inspiration, however, was never in short supply. “It’s amazing how we can record together these days without being in the same studio,” Santana notes. “To me, it’s not a hindrance at all. I just close my eyes and I’m in the same room with whomever I’m playing with, even if they’re somewhere far away. We share frequencies together.”
Ever since the multiple Grammy-winning smash “Smooth” became a worldwide staple, music fans have been longing for another pairing of Santana and Matchbox 20 vocalist Rob Thomas. Their wishes have been answered with the album’s aptly named first single “Move.” Call it a new classic – a grinding, grooving and altogether breathtaking mix of pop and Latin rock with sure-fire hooks for days, it’s like hearing old friends reuniting and tearing it up. Thomas is dynamic, sensual and utterly magnetic, and he’s ably backed by the punchy vocal talents of American Authors (especially the band’s Zac Barnett, who takes the lead spot in the second verse). Santana matches these supreme performances as only he can, with scintillating solos that explode with tectonic force.
“The way that ’Move’ came about was very much like how ‘Smooth’ happened,” Santana recalls. “It was like divine intelligence behind the scenes, and I just knew I had to record it with Rob. The song is about awakening your molecules. Ignite and activate yourself – you know, move. When Rob and I work together, we have a sound that’s splendiferous.”
The album’s second single, “She’s Fire,” is a hypnotically soulful ballad that works its way into your body chemistry. It’s one of two cuts that the mega-award-winning, chart-topping composer Diane Warren sent to Santana (“Break,” featuring Ally Brooke, is the other), for which the guitarist expresses heartfelt gratitude. “I’m so honoured that Diane reached out to me,” he says. “Both of the songs she sent have staying power. You’ll play them 10 or 20 years from now, and they won’t sound dated.”
On “She’s Fire,” Santana wraps his exquisite guitar melodies in and around an enticing narrative spun by the rapper G-Eazy – they converse, completing each other’s thoughts at times. Santana and Warren discussed numerous guests for the track, but before landing on G-Eazy – a decision the guitarist calls “brilliant.” “G-Eazy is so talented. I’m thrilled at how we both sound on this song,” he says. “It reminds me of when Bill Graham once told me: ‘Your music is spiritual and sensual. That’s who you are.’ And that’s the message of ‘She’s Fire.’”
Spend a few minutes around Carlos Santana, and you’re bound to hear the word “joy” more than a few times, so it’s only fitting that the album’s third single, which teams the guitarist with Grammy-winning country titan Chris Stapleton, is called “Joy.”
It’s a soul-enriching marvel that unfolds almost cinematically – one can envision mountain vistas and expansive plains – blending country, reggae, blues and gospel with a widescreen sing-along chorus. Stapleton is in peak form, plaintive and passionate, and Santana’s guitar playing, each immaculate solo and response, rises to meet him.
“America for Sale” is equally timely. Fuelled by a galvanising main riff inspired by his own iconic track “Soul Sacrifice,” Santana explains, “Anything is for sale. Nothing is holy ground. We’re selling America by the pound, and you see it everywhere, too. The Olympics – people train for years to break records, and right next to them they’re selling beer.”
Featuring underlying basic production by Rick Rubin, “America for Sale” is a gnashing, psycho-metal blues bruiser sung by Death Angel’s Marc Osegueda, and it sees Santana going toe to toe with Metallica six-string whiz Kirk Hammett on not one, but two gloriously sustained programs of fireworks. “Kirk and I were able to record in the same room together,” Santana says, “and we went for it like duelling banjos. There’s a part of me that loves Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Cream and Jeff Beck, and I love what Kirk does in Metallica. Playing with him, I get to prove that you can create good energy with explosive fire.”
“If I’m not feeling it, how can anybody else feel it?” he asks rhetorically. “I feel very blessed that I can feel chills when I play this music, and what I love about the album is how pure and innocent it feels. There’s a freshness to it. I’m not trying to rubber stamp and duplicate Abraxas or Supernatural. This record is like waves of light, and I’m a surfer riding those waves that become songs by different artists, creators and architects. I’m very fortunate that I have the opportunity to do that. It’s a gift I don’t take for granted.”
Watch the making of Blessings and Miracles here:
For more information please visit: Santana.com.
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