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Published: 2008/04/30
by Brian Ferdman

Santana - Blues at Montreux

Eagle Vision

If you are like me, you tread lightly around Carlos Santana. One on hand, you admire the groundbreaking work his Bay Area-based psychedelic-Latin-blues band created in the late 1960s and early 1970s. On the other hand, you shudder and cringe at the thought of his bland, adult-contemporary output of the 1980s and 1990s, not to mention his blatantly pop, watered-down-for-the-mainstream creations that have brought him newfound fame and wealth in this current decade. In spite of his recent recordings, his legendary sit-ins with many incendiary live acts have proven that Santana is still one bad mutha on the guitar, and his latest DVD release, a compilation of appearances with notable blues musicians at the infamous Montreux Jazz Festival, typically serves to reinforce that well-deserved reputation.

The DVD begins with Santana sitting in with the late Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. This band is a tight unit anchored by the impressive organ work of New Orleans' Joe Krown. Their version of "Got My Mojo Workin'" swings in Gatemouth’s noteworthy Texas Blues style, and his signature "Okie Dokie Stomp" is red hot with Santana proving to be the perfect guitar foil. Unfortunately, the same praise cannot be delivered for Bobby Parker's sit-in with Santana's band. It's not a knock on Parker because it's the backing band that feels stale and lifeless throughout its songs. Of course, where Santana's band is lacking in passion and bluesy authenticity, Buddy Guy's band has it in spades. Their single offering is a very lengthy, jam-heavy cut of "Stormy Monday." Santana, Guy, and Parker all jam fantastically together, and Barbara Morrison adds some playful and sultry vocal improvs with Guy.

Since this is essentially a compilation DVD, the performances are of varying musical quality. I'd advise watching the Gatemouth and Guy segments, but I'd skip the tracks with Santana's band unless you're in dire need of a nap.

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