Santana Greatest Hits – Live At Montreux, Blu-ray (2011-2012)
Performers: Carlos Santana – guitar; Dave Matthews – keyboards; Tommy Anthony – rhythm guitar, vocals; Tony Lindsay – vocals; Andy Vargas – vocals; Dennis Chambers – drums; Paul Rekow – percussion; Karl Perazzo – percussion; Benny Rietveld – bass; Bill Ortiz – trumpet; Jeff Cressman – trombone; with special guests: Cindy Blackman Santana – drums; Derek Trucks – guitar; Susan Tedeschi – guitar, vocals
TrackList: Spark Of The Divine; SOCC; Back In Black; Singing Winds, Crying Beasts; Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen; Corazon Espinado/Guajira; Benny And Cindy Solo; Jingo; Carlos Speaks/Novus; Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile); I Want You; Make Somebody Happy/Right On Be Free; Evil Ways/A Love Supreme; Sunshine Of Your Love; Smooth/Dame Tu Amor; Soul Sacrifice/Dennis Drum Solo; Samba Pa Ti; Into The Night; Love Peace And Happiness/Freedom
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment [2/21/2012]
Director: Chris Cowey
Video” 1.78:1 for 16×9 1080i HD color
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1; PCM Stereo; DTS-HD Master Stereo
Language: English; Spanish; French (interviews only)
Extras: Interviews with Carlos Santana & Cindy Blackman Santana; Behind The Scenes
Length: 204 minutes
Rating: Audio: ****½ Video: ****
Santana exploded onto the rock scene with the release of their self-titled debut in the late sixties. Leader Carlos Santana played guitar with a passionate frenzy that defined his music. The hit “Oye Como Va” established a radio friendly mix of latin rhythm and rock dynamics. What blew away the public was the percussive ferocity on tracks like “Jingo” and Soul Sacrifice”. Their blistering performance at Woodstock made Carlos Santana a superstar. Subsequent albums like Abraxas (with the reinvention of the blues dirge “Black Magic Woman”) helped to maintain the group’s appeal, even with several lineup changes.
Santana explored various genres of musical expression, including fusion jazz, African, world, Caribbean, r & b, blues and just about everything else. An all-star cadre of musicians, (including Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and B.B. King), have played with him at one of his favorite venues, Montreux.
Santana Greatest Hits Montreux 2011 is a definitive collection of material that reflects this forty year musical journey. Filmed in hi-def, the images are as vibrant and colorful as the performances. The extended band (including horns) produces a refined sound that stretches beyond the rhythm modes. After a ferocious percussion opening (“Spark Of The Divine”), the band lights up “Back In Black” by ACDC with the dual lead singers. Santana is comfortable with hard rock and covers Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” later in the evening.
For diehard Santana fans, several vintage tracks are revisited. From the seminal debut album, the group delivers high-powered versions of “Oye Como Va” that feature incendiary guitar licks and inspired organ play (Dave Matthews). “Evil Ways” (the number that started it all for this San Francisco band) morphs into a jam of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”. It’s possible that Santana purists looking for a repeat of Woodstock may be disappointed with the rearranged numbers with horns. (But take heart, one of the percussionists wears a Woodstock T-shirt). The fury of “Soul Sacrifice” is intact with a great solo by drummer Dennis Chambers. “Batuka/No One To Depend On” still has the infectious latin tempo and “Jingo” rocks out.
Guest artists make short appearances, including wife/drummer Cindy Blackman). Blues duo Derek Trucks (who shines on slide guitar) and Susan Tedeschi bring some gospel to the proceedings. But in the end, it is the artistry of Carlos Santana that perseveres. His haunting lead on “Samba Pa Ti” is breathtaking. Santana’s connection to world music is eternal, as the band introductions are interspersed with reggae grooves during the catchy rendition of the Chambers Brothers’ anthem, “Love, Peace And Happiness”
The bonus features (including an interview with Carlos and Cindy Santana) are somewhat perfunctory. The Blu-ray transfer is eye-popping with sharp editing, despite some lighting issues (too much red and blue glow from the stage lighting). The sound recording (5.1 surround or PCM Stereo) is top-notch and reflects the power of this larger ensemble.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.