Carlos Santana and Friends Stage a Sizzling Reunion

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Santana IV: Live at the House of Blues, Las Vegas
Eagle Rock Entertainment, DVD/2-CD, 151 mins.
$29.98 (regular)/$34.98 (Blu-Ray)

The Santana III album came out in 1971. Forty-five years later, Santana IV appeared. Of course, the band was hardly inactive in those ensuing decades, releasing some 20 studio records.

But IV reunited most of the surviving members of the III lineup for the first time on disc, who include leader Carlos Santana and Neal Schon (guitars), Gregg Rollie (vocals/keyboards), Michael Shrieve (drums), and Michael Carabello (percussion). Bassist David Brown died in 2000, and percussionist Jose “Chepito” Areas was not invited to the party.

Santana IV was a wonderful surprise, one of the best — if not the best — classic-rock albums of 2016. But this reunion lineup — different from the regular current incarnation of the band — also played a handful of live dates, including this gig, filmed in March just prior to the record release. Filling out the live lineup here are current Santana members Karl Perazzo (percussion), Benny Rietveld (bass) and David K. Mathews (keyboards).

As you’d expect from Santana, the music is a sizzling stew of rock, Latin, blues, jazz and African rhythms. The pleasant surprise is that the “new” material stands toe-to-toe next to the band’s classic hits (“Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman” “Oye Como Va,” “No One to Depend On”) and deeper cuts (“Jingo,” “Everybody’s Everything,” “Soul Sacrifice,” “Samba Pa Ti”).

In fact, 14 of the 16 tracks on IV get a live workout here, including the two latent flower-power anthems featuring soul legend Ronald Isley of the Isley Brothers. Standouts from IV include “Shake It,” “Caminando,” “Blues Magic/Echizo” and Isley’s “Love Makes the World Go Round.”

A few notes on the filming. The lighting is darker than it perhaps should be, and sometimes it’s hard to see Santana and Schon’s faces (though the fact that they wear a hat and sunglasses, respectively, adds to that difficulty). The camera work isn’t very inventive or exciting, and Rollie’s face is often a passive mask while he's singing.

But he has plenty of great keyboard flourishes, and the Santana/Schon guitar work sizzles. But the real stars here are the three-man percussion section, anchoring every song and imbuing them with a muy caliente feel. There are a number of longish instrumental passages, which likely came off better live than on film.

As Gregg Rolie told us when the album came out, he hopes that this “reunion” lineup has further life, especially live. Though any touring would have to be squeezed in around dates for the “regular” Santana, Schon’s Journey (which he co-founded with Rolie) and Rolie’s own gigs with Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band.

Nevertheless, the coming back together of Santana's Woodstock-era lineup will go down as one of the most successful – and true – classic-rock reunions of the past decade.

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