Ten days. That is how long it took veteran musician Carlos Santana and his fellow musicians to record their latest recording Africa Speaks. The album — produced by Rick Rubin — was released June 7 through Concord Records, less than three months after Santana and company released the group’s three-song EP In Search of Mona Lisa. In the mere weeks that have passed since the record’s release, it has already caused a division among listeners, with fans either loving or hating the recording. Those who love the record, do so for the same reasons that its detractors have decried the album — the change in the group’s sound this time out. The traditional Latin percussion sound to which listeners have become so familiar is replaced in large part by more African style drums (which is part of that African theme) and the arrangements are more complex than with past Santana compositions. Santana himself even takes even more of a backseat than ever to his fellow musicians and guest vocalist Concha Buika, who provides vocals for the majority of the album’s 12 total songs. The combination of Buika’s vocal talents with the talents of Santana and his fellow musicians goes a long way toward making the album in whole a strong, interesting new offering from the group. The record’s lead single, ‘Breaking Down The Door.’ It will be discussed shortly. ‘Los Invisibles,’ does just as much as ‘Breaking Down The Door’ to show the impact of Buika’s talents with those of Santana and company for this record. It will be addressed a little later. ‘Blue Skies’ is yet another example of how the combined talents of Concha Buika, Santana and his fellow musicians come together to create an engaging and entertaining recording in Africa Speaks. When it is considered alongside ‘Breaking Down the Door,’ ‘Los Invisibles’ and the rest of the record’s entries, the album in whole becomes a work that listeners will agree speaks volumes about Carlos Santana and company in the best way possible.
Carlos Santana’s latest full-length studio recording Africa Speaks is a solid new offering from the veteran guitarist and his fellow musicians. It is a record that speaks volumes about Santana’s place in the grand picture of the music community today. That is proven in part through the record’s lead single ‘Breaking Down The Door.’ ‘Breaking Down The Door (ft. Buika)’ is a positive first impression from Carlos Santana’s forthcoming album Africa Speaks. It is everything that audiences have come to expect from the veteran performer and his fellow musicians with its Latin-tinged sound. The horns, bongos, congas, cabasa, drums and guitar and accordion are expertly balanced throughout the song thanks to the work of famed producer Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Run DMC, The Dixie Chicks), who helmed the album. The song’s early bars create visions of nights in Havana which does somewhat go against the album’s theme of following African influences, but even with that in mind, still sets the song’s stage quite well. The rest of the composition is certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained as the noted instruments join together for a work in whole that is quite easy on the ears. It is just one of the song’s notable elements.
The song’s lyrical content is just as worth noting in examining the song as its musical content. It is sung by famed Grammy®-nominated and Latin Grammy® Spanish artist Concha Buika (pronounced BWEE-KA), who comes in as a guest performer on this track. Some of the lyrics are slightly difficult to decipher sans lyrics sheet, but enough is understood to realize the story in the song centers on a group of individuals’ relationships. Buika starts out singing about a woman named Tina. “Tina was no deceiver/Few were inclined to believe her/She was lucky to marry a rich, rich man/Handsome like Harry/Harry was a charmer/No one believed he would harm her.” She continues in the song’s second verse, “The wedding was the talk of the town/The girl went down in a long white gown/They said she wanted to marry above her/All she wante was someone to love her/News came first/They called her a liar/Had no sound/Mouth full of wire.”
The story seemingly does not have a happy ending, as Buika sings, “In the end, Tina was buried/By the church where she got married/Tina should have outlived us/Now we pray that she will forgive us/Tina was no deceiver/Few were inclined to believe her.” It would seem that in hindsight, this is a story about a young woman whose desire to be loved led to her being involved with someone who was not so nice. It is inferred through the line stating Harry was a charmer and that no one thought he would hurt her, that likely he did in fact hurt her. He apparently hurt Tina fatally. One could almost argue that with this in mind, this song is a reminder for people to make sure they know who that other person is before getting completely involved with that person. It’s hardly the first time that a song, such as this one has ever been presented. Aerosmith, Garth Brooks and Nickelback are among the many acts who have crafted songs centered on the matter of domestic abuse. The way in which it has seemingly been tackled here though, is a fresh new take on the topic, and just as certain to resonate with listeners. That is thanks not just to the story, but the song’s arrangement, too. Keeping all of this in mind, this song is a positive addition to Africa Speaks and just one of the record’s most notable entries. ‘Los Invisibles,’ which immediately follows ‘Breaking Down The Door,’ is another example of the impact of Buika’s talents combined with those of Santana and company, and the overall impact of the album.
‘Los Invisibles’ stands out in part because of its musical arrangement. Unlike ‘Breaking Down The Door,’ this song’s arrangement boasts much more of that African influence in its percussion elements. At the same time, the use of the guitars and bass adds a bit of a funk vibe to the arrangement. One could even argue there is a bit of a jazz influence in the song’s arrangement to boot. That is a lot of different musical genres and styles, but Santana and company being the consummate professionals that they are, the group made those elements join together to make a whole that is undeniably one of the record’s best musical moments. It is just one part of what makes the song in whole stand out. The song’s lyrical content couples with its musical arrangement to make the song in whole stand out even more.
According to the English translation provided with the song posted to Santana’s official YouTube channel, the song focuses, lyrically, on a young man talking to his lady love about their forbidden love. The translation shows the man sings to the woman, “Mari, Mari, Mari, don’t cry/When your mother found out about us/Said that she could not consent our love/Because I don’t have much money.” The lyrics become rather redundant from here until the song’s finale in which the man sings to the woman, “Good night, miss/We are free like the wind.” That finale line seems to be a statement of happiness, as if the man does not care what the woman’s mother thinks. He sings “we are free like the wind,” as if to say “We can do what we want.” This seeming statement would seem to add more clarity to the feeling in the song’s arrangement. There is a certain sense of confidence in the arrangement, and considering the subject’s statements, it works well. While it is another song that seems centered on relationships, it is the exact opposite of the story at the center of ‘Breaking Down The Door.’ In other words, it gives listeners something different to take in both lyrically and musically. It is just one more of the songs featured in Africa Speaks that shows the record’s strength. ‘Blue Skies’ is yet another example of the strength of Africa Speaks.
‘Blue Skies’ stands out in part because of its own arrangement, which is a stark contrast to the album’s other songs and even the pair already discussed here. This song’s arrangement is more of a pure blues piece that also mixes in a touch of jazz. The addition of Buika’s vocals adds that African element to the song, making the whole yet another of the record’s most notable entries if only for its musical side. Its musical side is just one part of what makes it stand out, of course. Its lyrical side adds even more interest to its whole.
The song’s lyrical content presents a message of clarity of mind and positivity. That is made clear right from the song’s outset as Buika sings, “Don’t call me ‘lost’/That’s not my name/I got my feet on the ground and I see many colors and others/I burn all my loneliness under the ocean/Wash away fears and I/Burn all my loneliness under the ocean.” She goes on in the song’s second verse, “I’m sending all my love to the blue skies/When light is raining over me/And then I remember the smile of my mama/When she thinks in the eyes of my grandma/When I feel that I’m lost/Don’t’ know where I belong/When a rose make my tears fall down/Nothing better than a blue skies/To cry over my memories.” She adds, “Oh now there’s a magical shine in the moonlight/that reminds me those mystical moments/I remember that night when we’ve crossed far/that red line.” She goes on in similar fashion through the rest of the song. The end result is a song that is loaded with hope and positive vibes. Those vibes are enhanced through the group’s musical arrangement, which exhibits so much emotion in its own right. When the whole of the song is considered alongside the whole of the other songs discussed here, the trio proves solidly what makes this record a work that will in fact speak to listeners in the best way possible. That is even more the case when they are considered alongside the rest of the album’s entries. All things considered, the album becomes a work that is unquestionably one more of this year’s top new albums overall.
Carlos Santana’s latest full-length studio recording Africa Speaks is a record that speaks loud and clear about Santana’s place (and that of his fellow musicians) in the music industry today. That is because it is yet another change of pace for the band that mixes elements of the group’s past works while also adding in a new element previously unused in the band’s past works. The album’s lead single ‘Breaking Down The Door’ uses the band’s more familiar sound to create its own identity while ‘Los Invisibles’ adds more of the noted African element previously unused in Santana’s past records. At the same time, it tells its own interesting story through its lyrical content. ‘Blue Skies’ continues to present the positive vibes for which the band has been known throughout its life. That is both in the song’s musical arrangement and its lyrical content. Keeping this in considering along with the positives of the other noted songs and the rest of the album’s entries, the end result is a record that is just as strong as anything that Santana and company have ever released previously. It is a record that says loud and clear, Carlos Santana and company are still among the music industry’s elite acts. Africa Speaks is available now. More information on Africa Speaks is available online now along with all of the latest news and more from Carlos Santana at:
To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.