For Carlos Santana it’s been a year of celebrating past glories — and working on creating some new ones.
Though 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of the San Francisco Bay Area guitar legend’s celebrated second album, “Abraxas,” it’s actually his 1999 album, “Supernatural,” that’s taken the spotlight. A deluxe edition reissue of the chart-topping all-star set — which has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide — came out in February. The album, which won nine Grammy Awards, also provided a thematic peg for “Supernatural Santana: A Trip Through the Hits,” his residency at the Joint in the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
And more than anything else, it’s allowed Santana and his fans to re-live and again enjoy one of the most significant and career-boosting releases of his 40-plus years of recording.
“If there’s anything about ‘Supernatural,’ it’s an affirmation that people trust me,” explains the Mexican-born Santana, 62, whose guests on the album included Dave Matthews, Everlast, Lauryn Hill, Product G&B, Eric Clapton and, on the smash “Smooth,” Rob Thomas. “All those musicians, artists, writers, engineers, producers, lawyers, accountants ... It was like a parade of roses and I’m in front, in the middle and in the end. It was an incredible experience.”
It’s one that Santana and music executive Clive Davis, who suggested the concept to the star, repeated for “Shaman” in 2002 and “All That I Am” in 2005. And now they’re at it again, crafting a new album — which is expected to be titled “Guitar Heaven: Santana Performs the Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time” — that’s due out Sept. 21.
It was Davis, inspired by a Rolling Stone magazine list of rock’s greatest guitarists — where Santana ranked No. 15 — who suggested the concept of recording classic rock songs and pairing Santana with another batch of iconic singers. And it was not an idea Santana warmed to at first.
“I was like, ‘No, I don’t know if I want to do this one, Clive. This one’s a little challenging. I’m kinda scared,’ ” Santana recalls. “And he would stay on the phone for at least 45 minutes to an hour, three times in one year, and I was like, ‘Oh, Lord ... ’
“But then I started realizing that someone with that intense passion of commitment couldn’t be wrong, so I had to trust him. And it was incredible.”
The lineup, on paper, is formidable. Santana reunited with Thomas on Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and worked with Joe Cocker on Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland on the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” Chris Daughtry on Def Leppard’s “Photograph,” Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell on Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix on Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” and Nas, who lays down rhymes on AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”
Santana chose half of the songs while Davis picked the other half, but the former’s favorite is the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which he recorded with India.Arie and cellist Yo Yo Ma.
Calling his versions of the songs “completely new, totally familiar ... and extremely vibrant,” Santana says that, “What I brought to the table is my heart, knowing that I complement, I don’t compete. I brought my heart, trusting that there’s enough in me of purity and innocence and genuineness that I couldn’t possibly ... (mess) it up.
“I know Eric (Clapton). I know Jeff Beck. I know Jimmy Page. And they know me. I have supreme certainty and confidence that they’re going to say, ‘Hey man, I love what you did with my song.’ ”
He’s already received one important thumbs up — from George Harrison’s widow, Olivia, after she heard “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
“I got back an e-mail,” Santana notes, “that says, ‘Carlos, I listened to the song and I started crying and jumping with joy at the same time. And I want you to know that George really loved you, because he understood your passion for compassion.’
“And I was like, ‘Bam!’ that’s like George Harrison himself, through his beautiful wife, validating my existence and what I did with that song.”
Santana’s summer tour is, not surprisingly, featuring much more of “Supernatural” than “Guitar Heaven,” though the group has been playing “Sunshine of Your Love” — and, of course, has its own litany of guitar-showcasing hits such as “Evil Ways,” “Oye Como Va,” “Black Magic Woman” and “Gypsy Queen.” But Santana — who’s also recorded an album of new instrumental music with the band — is looking forward to the world hearing his new interpretations and is confident they’ll fit comfortably into the “ariel view” of his long and varied career.
“When I look at all the songs I’ve done,” he explains, “it’s the same song with the same message of ‘What’s Going On,’ Marvin Gaye — war is not the answer, only love can conquer hate — or the Beatles’ ‘All You Need is Love,’ ‘One Love’ by Bob Marley, ‘Imagine,’ John Lennon ... it’s the same thing.
“You have to utilize the music to invite people to remember the forgotten song in them, that their life is meaningful and significant. The music can transport them to that place — if it’s done correctly.”
Santana and Steve Winwood perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 10, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $80 and $60 pavilion, $25.50 lawn with a $77 lawn four-pack. Call 248-644-3556 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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