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CD REVIEW

The Isley Brothers & Santana: Power of Peace

by Bill Murphy on September 05, 2017
Amid the accolades that swept over last year’s Santana IV, one key detail ended up as a footnote. Sure, the album marked a long-planned reunion of the classic 1971 lineup, with the return of Neal Schon in particular, obliging Carlos Santana to unleash a barrage of chops that many feared he’d abandoned for the warmed-over sound of 1999’s Supernatural. But while all ears latched onto the guitar interplay between Schon and Santana, the percussive fervor of the two Michaels (Shrieve and Carabello) and whether Gregg Rolie could still bust a badass lead vox (short answer: yes), Ronald Isley, the album’s lone guest artist, rather humbly nailed his two vocal takes, though no one seemed to notice.

That oversight gets addressed on Power of Peace, with the best of intentions. Santana has been an Isley Brothers fan since he was a kid—and what sane person with a heart wouldn’t be?—so teaming up with Ronnie and his guitar-slinging brother Ernie Isley (a well-known Hendrix acolyte) is a no-brainer. What’s more, it’s a prime showcase for Cindy Blackman Santana, who had staked a hard-fought claim as one of the best drummers in rock long before her marriage to Santana.

With this many heavyweights in one room, a covers album was inevitable—but it’s their quirky choices that really stand out. Who else but Santana would know to attempt the Electric Mud version of Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” or that Eddie Kendricks’ “Body Talk” and the Chambers Brothers’ barnburning “Love, Peace and Happiness” would inspire a fusillade of great licks from Ernie? Add to this a stunning flamenco-meets-reggae send-up of Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Woman,” with Ronnie delivering the requisite goosebumps with his still-silky voice, and Power of Peace starts to live up to the higher spiritual plane that Santana always strives for with his music. It’s diminished by moments of cheese—a throwaway rap by Andy Vargas on “Higher Ground,” a misplaced ballad by Blackman Santana called “I Remember,” a mellifluous bleat of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “What the World Needs Now”—but, overall, Power of Peace is plugged into something positive and timely.
Authors: Bill Murphy
Artist: The Isley Brothers & Santana
Album: Power of Peace
Label: Legacy

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