Undoubtedly the standout track, the often-covered “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by George Harrison of The Beatles is given new life with the combination of India. Arie on vocals and Yo Yo Ma on cello. Both offer a haunting quality that complements the song extremely well, as does Carlos Santana’s playing. He switches tastefully back and forth between acoustic and electric guitar, and makes some memorable melodic statements throughout the song. This may be the best work Santana has turned out in years.
Def Leppard’s anthem “Photograph” is sung by American Idol success story Chris Daughtry. And, while Daughty’s voice fits the style of the song nicely, it’s a strange choice for Santana: the combination of the band and production star Robert “Mutt” Lange made the original an extremely tight, slick-sounding song. Santana — more of a free-wheeling improviser — clashes with the regimentation of this song.
Vocals are split on the AC/DC rocker “Back In Black.” Nas raps the verse, while Robyn Troup (winner of the “My Grammy Moment” contest) sings the chorus. While both deliver stand up performances, the overall effect didn’t come off nearly as well as the experimentation of the George Harrison cover. Carlos’ guitar work is credible, but doesn’t really add anything exciting to the song.
Arguably the weakest track on the album, The Doors classic “Riders On The Storm” is sung by Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. While Bennington may have a strong voice, the rich and poignant delivery of Jim Morrison is sadly lacking. And Santana appears to meander through the song without much direction.
Following closely on its heels is the Deep Purple number “Smoke On The Water,” sung by Papa Roach vocalist Jacoby Shaddix. Between the twangy rock power of Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar and the powerful operatic warble of Ian Gillan’s vocals, the original was quite understandably a memorable rock anthem. Unfortunately, nothing in the Santana cover captures that mood, and in fact the iconic opening riff is sadly covered up by some lead guitar riffs.
Eddie Van Halen forever altered the landscape of rock guitar, with his beautifully harmonic songwriting and arranging, not to mention his varied guitar techniques. So covering Van Halen’s uplifting “Dance The Night Away” was a difficult challenge. Train’s Patrick Monahan turns in a solid vocal performance, but neither he nor Carlos can match the dynamism of the original.
Rock ‘n roll bad boy Marc Bolan first wrote and recorded “Bang A Gong” for T. Rex in 1971; it was covered successfully nearly 25 years later by “super group” Power Station (Robert Palmer, Tony Thompson, and Duran Duran alums John and Andy Taylor), among other bands. Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale sounds fine on vocals, but Santana’s constant riffing during the song takes away from the simple, raw power of the composition.
It’s nice to hear on the Hendrix classic “Little Wing” that the soulful Joe Cocker has still got his awesome pipes. Unfortunately, Carlos turns in an uninspired performance of this, especially compared to the bang up job Stevie Ray Vaughan did on it in his remake 20 years earlier.