My brother is a guitar nut. By that I do not mean that he is edible, a musical instrument with strings, or even a combination of the two. He merely loves all things guitar and all those who have mastered it to some level of proficiency. He does not like the Arctic Monkeys, for example, but adores Dire Straits. It was therefore a surprising move when he told me he’d been listening to ‘Under the Bridge’ (originally by the Red Hot Chili Peppers). In the summer of 2007 I made the exodus to Sheffield to see my then favourite band while my brother merely scoffed and practiced another Clapton riff. This, therefore, was some U-turn.
In a move to learn a little more I asked the following: ‘I’m sorry, what now?’ It was through this that I was able to ascertain that Carlos Santana, guitarist extraordinaire, had decided to make an album of covers including the greatest guitar hits of all time. At this point I was more than curious so toddled off to Spotify to check it out.
After listening agog the only thing I could liken it to was something Rhythms del Mundo did a few years back. They took a raft of popular songs and put something in there that, when they had finished, meant you could salsa to ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay. Mark Ronson famously did the same thing so much so that I have never listened to Radiohead without having suicidal tendencies until I heard his version of ‘Just.’
The concept is not therefore new. What Santana does, however, that neither of the above artists does exclusively is to get new artists to do all the vocals. Granted they aren’t all household names, but you may recognise the likes of Rob Thomas, Chris Cornell and Nas. The majority of the songs will be music that your parents listened to, but Santana brings his epic riffs and Latino style that will reopen your eyes to those classics collecting dust on your shelf: I have never heard ‘Bang a Gong’ start with trumpets and maracas. It changed my life a little bit.
The record begins with ‘Whole Lotta Love’ made famous as the theme to ‘Top on the Pops’ and by track three, an energetic version of ‘Sunshine of Your Love,’ the listener is well and truly exhausted. It then seems fitting to chillax a little with a beautiful version of ‘While my Guitar Gently Weeps.’ The remaining songs are a mix of genres and eras, notable contributions being ‘Riders on the Storm,’ ‘Smoke on the Water,’ and the aforementioned ‘Bang a Gong.’
Everything winds down with ‘Under the Bridge.’ Now, being a stalwart of the Red Hot Chili Peppers appreciation society, it had a lot to live up to.
All Saints failed biblically, could Santana and Andy Vargas cut the mustard? Friends, they sliced through it with a machete. Even if you have no intention to buy the CD or even read the end of this article, stop what you’re doing and listen to that song. The Latino influences bring something magical to the song that the Chili Peppers never really explored. It is a complete re-imagining of a song, by now thirty years old, and smelling somewhat of the early nineties.
What this collection does therefore, is rethink things with which we are too familiar. Everyone knows that famous riff to ‘Smoke on the Water’ even if you don’t know its name. What you aren’t expecting is the jazzy organ or the almost constant guitar solo. My brother’s only comments went a little like this: ‘It’s all great apart from ‘Back in Black’ …it contains a rap.’
You have been warned. If you are still interested the record is called ‘Guitar Heaven’ and available from shops.