Is "Santana IV" the best progressive rock reunion of the decade?

John Watt

When I was reading Rolling Stone last summer,
there was an article about the original band "Santana" getting back together.
Neil Schon asked Santana to start a band with him, and they played at Woodstock.
That's when the world saw and first heard that "game-changing" band,
not only with percussion, two guitars and keyboards,
but the reputation of doing "acid" to be psychedelic and creative.
The songs, not called latino or low-rider back then, just global, mega-hits,
didn't feature a vocalist who was busting a gut or vein-popping to be singing.
They recorded three albums, all best sellers, before rock star burn-out took them out.

Neil Schon came back with Journey, one of the first and best rock-fusion bands,
instrumental music, again, best-sellers, as one of the best electric guitarists.
He kept that going for almost twenty years.
Carlos Santana became Deva Dip Santana, wearing all white, getting meditative.
I'm seeing his album with Mahavishnu John McClaughlin as that highlight.
Carlos was even getting faster on the fretboard.

Neil Schon heard Steve Perry, his songs and singing, and Journey became huge again,
having global pop hits that are still heard all over, even TV and movies.
Carlos hit it big with "alternative rock" singers, his huge hit album a decade ago.
Now they're hitting on us again.

This afternoon, the Flea Market friend of mine next door, and I mean next door,
held up "Santana IV", a double CD disc set, of the new Santana playing live.
I've been talking about this, and it's nice it came his way,
having a customer come in with four DVD movies, happy to get $5.
My friend lent this to me for the week, until he's back next weekend.
So you can see, this rock band history, coming from the Woodstock era me.

If I didn't know any of this, what would I be thinking, looking at it now?
Americans are so low with education, and are kept as an end user audience,
the Superbowl doesn't use Roman numerals for games, like SuperBowl XXVI,
to test your use of Latin, it's there so people will buy it again, unable to tell the year.
Seeing Santana IV is enough to ignore.
Opening the cover, seeing a bunch of senior, and senor, citizens, isn't inspiring.
Knowing it's at "The House of Blues", in Las Vegas, where I would be afraid to go,
would be the sales killer.

Standing there, with my friend, with two other interested men, who were interesting,
I said, no, I can see getting into it. I just did a how to sand my guitar video,
and I can see watching this and sanding away in rhythm, going shuh shuh shuh, oh yeah.

That might seem like just fun, for you righties,
but look at the Bondex boxes, featuring a right hand. How can I do as well, as a lefty?
I know. I'll sit them here and if my hand gets tired sanding, I'll bongo away on them.
This has to be historic, from P.A.F. Humbuckers at Woodstock to my semi-solid-body.
I can only agree, this new Santana band is a historic occasion, maybe of this decade.
And I like agreeing with me. Oh! Even my guitar is now saw-dusting down...
particles of wood... floating around... but... but... oh...
the only magic sticks I see, are the conductor sticks of Frederik Magle.

This did inspire my own progressive rock moment, turning up from 300 d.p.i. to 400,
and when I tried the Bondex boxes, they came out sounding like tablas.
Right now, it's time to get some late night energy food out, and turn it on.
I also got two 150 watt flood-lights, to make more visible videos,
and decided to use a different camera, experimenting with that.

Santana IV.jpg
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John Watt

If I'm going to comment on this, from a new millennium perspective,
and for me, being left-handed and doing left-handed things is a big part of me being progressive,
I'll include that, the left-handed perspective, an approach that is the start of everything about my life.

The first thing I thought, seeing the band starting to play, was thinking, what,
they've got Neil Peart on drums, because I thought Michael Shrieve had passed away,
and even though it wasn't Neil Peart, I kept thinking that, every once in a while.
What also surprised me right away,
was seeing the band start with "Soul Sacrifice", the fastest song Santana played,
and one that featured a drum solo. Michael Shrieve played a hot and rhythmic drum solo,
good for him. However, he still only played hitting down, nothing hitting up or set up for that.
The band played maybe three songs, not seeing Neil Schon,
until Carlos Santana introduced him, calling him up beside him, to start playing together.
Santana had the same style guitar, only now custom made, a textured gold Les Paul style,
still using the same big P.A.F. Humbuckers, still having them reversed against each other.
Neil had a Strat-style guitar, lots of knobs and switches, but a flat-top body, nothing curved, looking purfled.
His first solo had dense effects, probably his modern self, but after that it was back to Santana style.
For rhythm guitar, they both had fuzz with sizzle, making nice chords impossible to hear, just basic sounds.
Close your eyes, and they were taking you back in time, almost note for note.
Gregg Rolie, the Hammond B3 organist, was the only musician looking like he was getting into it,
looking around, being reactive with lots of personality, and looking serious when he was getting into it.
Carlos looked like a bundled up moderator, being Carlos Santana, but just being there.
Neil was doing his looking at the audience, grinning, smiling, walking around, looking too easy.
You could see Carlos' fingers loosening up as he played, and maybe half-way through,
he was using some "Love, Devotion and Surrender" riffs, up and down the E string.
He was still reaching over the strings to pick the E string on an up motion, a little painful to watch, for me.
Neil not only looked good, for an older man, but his fingers are still there, fast and effects topping.
When they finally got into Black Magic Woman, they jammed out the ending, as the original did,
only, Carlos used heavy distortion with one note on lower bass, no octaves, doing the melody of...
"Third Stone from the Sun", by Jimi Hendrix, and Neil started adding some Hendrixian riffs,
looking and smiling at each other, even if it wasn't close to being orchestral as Jimi sounded.
Maybe it was the distraction of sanding my guitar,
but I was starting to think what upgrades these musicians could have used,
and sure enough, funky bass was first, not hearing any. And Sly and the Family Stone,
came out of Woodstock with far bigger hits and tours right away, a natural as an influence.
When Gregg Rolie started looking back, a big smile, for another song, there was some mild funk,
but it was more like when Deep Purple got funky, like a fast "Sail Away", bass octave thing,
not snapping and popping finger style, or getting busy raggae bass going. Just one song.
Carlos said something about "Jamaican, hey mon", to start another song,
but nothing raggae was heard, it was just him singing his one and only vocal.
After a song started, after the solo, during another solo, Carlos used the melody from,
"I Feel the Earth Move", and it took looking at the credits to see the song was the Carole King song.
It would have been so easy to play a melody, and then be jazzy, but no.
When it was time to introduce Ronald Isley, I was just thinking the Isley Brothers.
Jimi Hendrix played with them a little, and taught the younger brother how to play with distortion,
and a Fuzz Face, as in "Who's that Lady", a huge hit for them.
Carlos introduced him as saying when he came to L.A., washing dishes in a restaurant,
he kept one of his songs going, thinking it was the best music.
This was subtle, but playing with bands that suffered racism, and used reverse racism,
explains this.
After such a wonderful introduction, when all the musicians felt blessed to be on stage with him,
oh yeah, the liner notes get religious and sacra-mental, Ronald held up a pair of mariachi shakers,
and tried to shake them in rhythm with the band, be he couldn't, so he stopped,
and the camera went right away to Gregg Rolie, where he was looking, and shaking his head,
being a little angry, and while Ronald kept holding them up head level, he never shook them again.

It was interesting to hear that as the two guitarists kept working the song list as album progressions,
their use of harmony leads increased, as well as Neil shadowing Carlos, Jimi style,
riding the tremolo arm, using more effects, but, and this really surprised me,
both guitarists still only played one note at a time for solos, not two or three strings.
I thought it was sad, when Carlos introduced Neil as bringing this madness, bringing this craziness,
together, but then, over half-way, Carlos said "If you have some mescaline, you should do it now".
Wow! That used to be a big Fillmore moment, when tickets could be soaked in acid, being told to eat which half,
things like that. That's actually against the law, promoting drug use onstage.
But, being just a reunion concert, and probably not caring about travelling to Canada, crossing that border,
it didn't matter to them.
That's when Carlos brought out a slide, starting high up the neck, just sliding it down,
as technical a trick as he had to make more sounds than just picking and using his fingers.
He could have done more using a mike stand.
When the band ended by putting down their instruments, and letting the PA make the most electronic noise,
and I mean noise, I was thinking that using 2001 would have been better.
Carlos never said much, but he stopped to talk, about the old days, being only old days as conversation.
He didn't even open his eyes while he talked, closed tight shut. I understand.
As the band walked off, the camera panned around the audience,
and there was only polite applause, not a big reaction, and there was no encore, or call for one.
That surprised me,
because the ending could have been edited up to make them as enthusiastic as they could want.
No Fillmore swirling colours as a backdrop, just graphics and stage lighting, easy to watch the players.
When I saw the package had three discs, I got excited, thinking lots of backstage,
maybe even in the studio, but no, it was just all the concert songs given on two CDs, but,
I thought yeah, that's what Santana was, what LA was, with the new "super highways",
cruising music, low-rider music, even if Santana said Cuban and African.
What could he have said that would be modern, for him?
Instead of going on about John Lennon, Bob Dylan, the British Invasion,
he could have said "Viva Zapata", or "Matzatlan lives", and mentioned them.
Even when I'm shopping at No Frills, when migrant workers from Mexico are bussed in,
and that's pronounced "meh-hee-co", as Mayan, I can say those phrases,
and men who can't talk English can turn and start talking with me.
There always is peace and love, it's just so hard to find.

I've got this for a week, but I betcha I only play it once more.
How many times can you listen to the same old Santana?
Looking at each of these musicians as men, if I met any of them,
would I want to jam or start a band, for sure, looking and sounding great,
for a bunch of senior, and senor, players.
And as far as being shown inside the House of Blues in Las Vegas,
I get off more looking at my 45 second video, sand-tana.
It's only going to get worse, as I stopped having to rehearse a long time ago,
on and offstage, now, on and offline.
Somehow, typing "make it full screen", isn't as exciting as "turn it up loud".

oh, oh, why didn't they call Steve Perry up to sing... I expected that.
Where was the sax from Caravanserai, when they got jazzy, really nice.
Where were other Woodstock survivors, as a we used to be the world, moment?
Why was there no mention of Bill Graham, who put them up onstage in the first place?
They talked about the Fillmore onstage and in the interviews a lot.
I was hoping, that if they did a Fillmore cover, it would be "Riders in the Storm".
That's a natural as a road song with a mellow, groovy bass, and easy to sing.

Before the concert was over, I was already thinking,
what would be the ultimate classic rock reunion,
thinking if LA can't get it together,
it would have to be something British as a global audience,
but for me, there are too many Canadian musicians for just one show.
And most of them are still gigging.
Right now, I'm just googling, but gigs are calling me.
I never planned on being old as being a big part of my act,
but if my left-handed approach to life,
not taking what the right hands are offering me,
has kept me sane and developing as a musician, mentally and physically,
if it surprises people every time I do something that used to be so ordinary,
I'll flow with that glow, and as I'm starting to say, not sing...
youth are just hot to trot, but seniors have geriatricks.

After his alternative rock album, that really brought Santana back,
why didn't Rob Thomas, especially, or any of the other hit single singers,
join them onstage, even if they had to use star power during the set to get up there?
Instead of $2 as a movie DVD, I'd pay $5 as a live concert DVD.
Jus'sayin', 'n'gettin'ready for some playin'.
Wolfy... see any edits?

John Watt

Now that another day has dawned, with a mind no longer shoved up the screen,
of the House of Blues in Las Vegas, with a possible combination contact high,
with some mind-melding,
I thought of my favorite lead guitarist-vocalist of the seventies, who had as many global pop hits,
Mr. George Benson. Instead of having a throw-back for Carlos Santana, Ronald Isley,
he would represent the style of jazzy, funk-pop they should have gotten into,
for at least one fast and one slow song.
Jaco Pastorius... Stanley Clarke... on bass, big big names for pop hits as jazzers,
with a tribute for snapping and popping the strings with huge pop hits, Rick James.
Sting, becoming a New Yorker, could do a couple of his songs, and let him just sing.
Without a cord tying him to his amp, he might do a whole new thing.
I would use a cord to tie Prince to his piano, sitting beside Lyle Mayes on synths,
Wayne Shorter of Weather Report on sax,
as Joe Zawinul waits in the wings, when no-one onstage calls his name.
Gino Vanelli and his brother could appear as special guest artists, if he wanted to,
and that would depend on if the other musicians ever spent a rainy night in Montreal.
Louis Armstrong had a big chart topping hit, a legit addition on trumpet,
and you need a senior player, if you want listeners to take you seriously.
Now, I'm pointing myself in the proper direction.

"Let's call the inventor of the semi-solid-body guitar up onstage,
and all the boys really want a lefty up here",
the best birthday present.

It's my birthday today, May the 1st. I'm 66 years old.
Untold generations of non-smokers, non-drinkers,
a son, of Sons and Daughters of the Gael, who speak Gaelic.
I was born a month overdue, by natural child birth.
The love of my parents keeps me strong.

May All Peace Be Upon You.

John Watt

Soren, of TINKICKER, sent me an email, saying it was Frederik Magles' birthday,
his fortieth.
I hope you realize how young you really are,
with every hope, and every dream, still looking down on you,
as you ascend to be one with the stars.

A little Gaelactic resonance doesn't hurt.
Bay-an-uck-let, blessings on you.

John Watt

Oh! That must have deepened, without darkening, my semi-solid-body thinking.
As a build with one-piece, matching tops and bottoms, with solid wood for a center section,
my manufacturing term, semi-solid-body, was happily recognized and accepted everywhere.
I stress, what is new is an acoustic phenomena never created before.
That only enhances any string potentials, increasing any feedback abilities, being electronic.

If it was just acoustic, a Stratocaster style violin build, "viol-voluptura" is looking, and sounding, good.
But as a name for this build, it needs the electronic component,
and I'd like to see another hyphen, being double-hyphenated already, and looking for more.
Somehow, "viol-voluptura-wattage" doesn't do it for me, even if "w" is two "v's" together.
"viol-voluptura-volta" is getting there, but that's Volta, an Italian, not Watt, Gaelic.
Tesla, Tesla, stop that, stop that, keep it in the wire, keep it in the wire, you ACDC you, you ACDC you!
"viol-voluptura-violencecia" does have a string ring to it, and banging and hitting is much technique.

There has to be an organ stop that I never heard of.
Please remember, the original Fender Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played, some '64 parts in mine,
did not have two octaves on the neck.
The semi-solid-body has two octaves on the neck, a third octave for the top G, B and E strings,
with a playable fourth octave as generating a signal, for all six strings.
That's the "voluptura" I'm thinking about, plus more and bigger curves than a violin.

Say the name, say the name, and see your name, as a credit wherever it's played.

John Watt

Just when sand-tana was becoming a soft, sanding motion, as the ocean,
even with some offshore surf washing up on me,
feeling like a low-rider cruise down the long highway, heading for some sand-surfing,
this inventive vented and turned semi-intuitive.... attracting the attractives...
This video is 1:50.

What was called matching grains, bookmark grains, of the same board,
aren't the same any more.
Look at these slices of wood, each one piece, cut more than sawn,
with less than an eighth of an inch missing between them, by a modern INCO factory saw.
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John Watt


This prototype, first "snap-off-blade" knife in North America, makes carving easy.
I can only carve out the necessary holes in the wood.
The grain is so dense, almost a burl, I can only successfully sand any edges.
KDS-Hi CUTTER S-12, with a smaller stamping "Japan".

I mention the most famous wood worker of all, always in my heart, always on my mind.
In a Mediterranean society where poppies grew, all the opium, morphine and heroin,
hashish in every country, with a narco-empire built on the belief semen was medicinal,
as the gift of life, and the more beautiful the boys, the more potent it was.
Even their blood became the blood of gods, making them marry brothers and sisters.
Elongated skulls and other deformities, yeah, now lost gods for end users.
You should also wonder why, in all of the Holy Bible, none of this is ever mentioned.
Carving wood might get too meditative sometimes, but that's just sometimes... for me.

Here in the Niagara Peninsula, you might think my food pricing for processed food,
thinking a dollar for every hundred grams, is a lo-to-no budget approach.
How's this for energy food, $3 for 300 g, and hazelnuts are one of my favorite taste treats.
I've got to start planning videos out a little, forgetting to lean this off to the side.
And I've got to stop singing "Nicolo" and "Nicola" instead of "Ricola".

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