Review: Santana – Guitar Heaven [2010]

After many years, guitar legend Carlos Santana has finally released something interesting.  Guitar Heaven features covers of twelve classic-rock gems, ranging from The Beatles to Def Leppard.  Each tune contains a different guest singer; some bad ass (Chris Cornell, Scott Weiland), some lame (Nas, Rob Thomas). Here’s the deal:

Each of Santana’s renditions are infused with a fresh energy and a hint of Latin flair.  However, the sickest track you will find on this effort is “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” featuring Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland.  It is a very noble effort, as this Rolling Stones classic has such an insane groove.  There are very few songs throughout the history of mankind that have reached this astronomical level of rock.  Santana and Weiland managed to do this tune justice.

Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach does an excellent job leading Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell delivers a blistering performance, opening the album with an aggressive version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”

Train’s Pat Monahan belts out surprisingly decent David Lee Roth vocals on Van Halen’s “Dance The Night Away.”  Perhaps Eddie can pick this guy up the next time Roth leaves.

With all of the new-school names of rock singing lead, it is very cool that the talent of Joe Cocker from the old school appears to tear up Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.”

Who would have ever thought that The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” would sound much better with a Latin groove? Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington lends his voice, pulling it off mainly because of the low-key spoken vocals.  Whenever I have seen Linkin Park live (about five times between 2000 and 2003), he never sounded that great on the more taxing tunes so this was a good song choice.

“Back In Black” featuring Nas is whack.  The beauty of the original riff is assaulted and Nas’ rap vocals are insulting to Brian Johnson’s masterful gut growls.  The backup singers during the chorus sound great and Carlos does tear it up in the solos, but they are his own creation.  Was he too lazy to learn the joy that is Angus Young?

Gavin Rossdale does his Bushy thing on T-Rex’s “Bang a Gong,” but Santanas leads become far too irritating and monotonous.

Even though Rob Thomas and Santana have had great success on their collaborations over the years, “Sunshine of Your Love” lacks some of the electricity I was expecting on a cover like this.  Another disappointment is the rendition of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which is a top-ten all-time great.  Santana’s lead guitars again become very irritating forcing the track to drag on.

It is great to see that Santana is releasing some cool material.  I was not expecting for this legend to pique my interest ever again.  With lively interpretations of songs that are more relevant than ever in the Guitar Hero age, Guitar Heaven will keep fans engaged for a few days.  However, due to the butchering of AC/DC and The Beatles, these short-comings take this effort down a couple notches.

Track Listing:

  1. “Whole Lotta Love”
  2. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”
  3. “Sunshine of Your Love”
  4. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
  5. “Photograph”
  6. “Back in Black”
  7. “Riders On The Storm”
  8. “Smoke On The Water”
  9. “Dance The Night Away”
  10. “Little Wing”
  11. “I Ain’t Superstitious”

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