You’d think that bringing together some of the finest voices in rock to pay tribute to some of the most recognizable songs of all time would make for a must-have album, especially when their backing band is led by a world-class guitarist such as CARLOS SANTANA. Sadly, on GUITAR HEAVEN, said combination yields a payoff that is far less than what the promise would lead you to expect.
The album starts off well, with SOUNDGARDEN mainman Chris Cornell belting out a great rendition of LED ZEPPELIN’s “Whole Lotta Love” in a manner that’s akin to a big-budget cover put together for the soundtrack of a blockbuster film. The magic quickly fades, as you realize that the production is so clean it’s sterile, and that Santana – who’s voice is that of his guitar – fights for space alongside his guest frontmen.
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS frontman Scott Weiland does a passable job on THE ROLLING STONES’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin,” though the aforementioned mix becomes more of a distraction. Granted, this is a SANTANA project, but a mix like this heard anywhere else would be deemed unacceptable.
Sometimes-MATCHBOX TWENTY crooner Rob Thomas (he of former Santana mega-hit “Smooth”) returns for a solid performance of the CREAM classic “Sunshine of Your Love,” while INDIA.ARIE and Yo-Yo Ma pop up on THE BEATLES’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which scores a low point of the album with it’s mall-music, “muzak” vibe.
BACK IN BLACK brings Nas into the mix for a disturbingly-soundtracky version of the AC/DC classic that lacks all of the balls present on the original, and makes you crave the live version that JAY-Z has been known to pull off from time to time.
The other tracks are just more of the same, and make for something worth hearing just once to discuss, and then to be shelved for revisiting never. Albums like this are seldom great, and tend to create a problem when touring as well. Carlos will probably stick some poor kid up in front to sing all of these tracks no where near as well as the voices on the album, and audiences will pay a premium to see a cover gig on caliber with something you could easily see for the price of a couple of beers at thousands of bars across the country – most likely played with more energy.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
GUITAR HEAVEN tracklisting:
1. “Whole Lotta Love” featuring Chris Cornell (Led Zeppelin)
2. “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'” featuring Scott Weiland (The Rolling Stones)
3. “Sunshine of Your Love” featuring Rob Thomas (Cream)
4. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” featuring india.arie and Yo-Yo Ma (The Beatles)
5. “Dance the Night Away” featuring Pat Monahan (Van Halen)
6. “Back In Black” featuring Nas (AC/DC)
7. “Riders on the Storm” featuring Chester Bennington and Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
8. “Smoke On the Water” featuring Jacoby Shaddix (Deep Purple)
9. “Photograph” featuring Chris Daughtry (Def Leppard)
10. “Bang a Gong” featuring Gavin Rossdale (T. Rex)
11. “Little Wing” featuring Joe Cocker (Jimi Hendrix)
12. “I Ain’t Superstitious” featuring Jonny Lang (Howlin’ Wolf, Jeff Beck Group)
13. “Fortunate Son” featuring Scott Stapp (Credence Clearwater Revival)*
14. “Under the Bridge” featuring Andy Vargas (Red Hot Chili Peppers)*
* Deluxe Edition Bonus Track
Reviewed from the standard edition.