Thursday, 21 October 2010

New Review

Guitar Heaven : The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time

Santana and more importantly Carlos Santana knows what works and what doesn't. After many years in the touring wilderness without a hit to hang onto he joined forces with Arista Records legend Clive Davis and the “Supernatural” album was made in 1999 and brought to him a whole new audience along with a host of supporting acts and solo stars who would “FEAT:” on the tracks. A clever game plan as a name like Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean can definitely get you some air play on stations outside of his usual FM oldies station. The plan paid off and with it 9 Grammy awards followed along with his biggest hit in 20 years “Smooth” featuring Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas. Santana were back.

They have followed this template since with the album “Shaman” and “All That I Am” which made use of his little black book of “friends”.

This new offering “Guitar Heaven : The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time” is a collection of cover versions that reads like the back of a Guitar Hero Game or the best of lists found at the back of a Xmas edition of Guitar Player magazine. The song choices are obvious, as good as the tracks are and as well executed they are played (Carlos Santana playing has never sounded so incendiary and ballsy) it doesn't really knock the originals out of the limelight i.e. “Can't You Hear Me Knocking” feat: (obviously) Scott Weiland is a great choice but isn't going to worry Mick Jagger any time soon for early retirement (or is that late?). Only the classy re-arrangement of the George Harrison Beatles track “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is worthwhile, with its Mexican mariachi guitar playing the initial piano figure of the original and a restrained vocal from India.Arie give this a stylish make-over. Other tracks include the awful “Photograph” (original Def Lepard) to the confusing “Back In Black” feat: Nas turns AC/DC's original into a strange money spinner hoping for a hit by “updating it” for today, lame.

The Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek appears with Chester Bennington on the remake of his former bands “Riders On The Storm” without any of the heart of the original Jim Morrison or the the bands interpretation. A definite wasted opportunity as both Manzarek and Santana have the chops to solo into jazz territory instead there is just a lifeless Friday night covers band version here. “Smoke On The Water” (yes I know THAT obvious) is next and like the previous track you just need to walk into any bar in any city and hear a comparable version.

Van Halen's track “Dance The Night Away” was chosen although I have no idea why, can Carlos Santana really think this is one of the greatest classics ever? Its not even in the top 10 of Van Halen's tracks although maybe he possibly decided against bongos with “Hot For Teacher”. Bush front man and the current Mr Gwen Stafani Gavin Rossdale appears on the 2 star version of the
T-REX classic “Get It On” or “Bang A Gong” as its named here by that ol' hippy Carlos.

An album with this title would seem a total lame duck without the inclusion of Jimi Hendrix so its no surprise when one of his great tracks “Little Wing” appears with a left field selection of Joe Cocker on vocals. Like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” before in the album, they have tried to change the arrangement a little but while this worked previously this only seems to take the guts out of the original as the majority of the Hendrix guitar work is replaced by keyboards that hold the arrangement down enough for Carlos Santana to solo merciless over while Cocker seems lost by the whole thing.

The album picks up from disaster with the inclusion of Jonny Lang and his run through of the Willie Dixon penned Howlin' Wolf classic “I Ain't Superstitious” which has the feel that everyone in the room was firing on all cylinders and the A&R guys were locked outside. This version owes more to the Jeff Beck cover than the Howlin' Wolf original with Lang's vocals leaning towards Rod Stewart's rasp rather than Wolfs growl. The set concludes with run through's of Creedence Clearwater Revivals “Fortunate Son” and Red Hot Chilli Peppers ballad and monster hit “Under The Bridge”, both never get off the ground and are forgotten by the time both familiar choruses kick in. A pointless affair. Download “I Ain't Superstitious” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and bin the rest.

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