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Journey to the Center of the Discographies

By Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Sept. 25, 2009

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

SANTANARAMA

Santana

The Woodstock Experience (Columbia/Legacy) 2009

Restoring the single track edited out from 2004's otherwise superior Santana reissue, Woodstock pairs the group's name-making festival set with the 1969 debut that followed ("Evil Ways," "Jingo"). Both discs cruise Rolie's low-rider vocals, him sounding like a 50-year-old blues stevedore rather than a twenty-ish college dropout. "Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries," reinstated. ****

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

'Santana III'

(Columbia/Legacy) 2006

Abraxas, Santana fire-eater numero dos ("Black Magic Woman," "Oye Como Va," "Samba Pa Ti"), isn't deluxed, but 1971's original band swan song bows 17-year-old Neal Schon and struts "No One to Depend On," written by Rolie, Michael Carabello, and Coke Escovedo, Alejandro's older brother. A second-CD Fillmore set burns Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way." ****

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

Gregg Rolie Band

Rain Dance 2009

Uncanny fireworks – peak Santana ('68-'71) – pale next to ownership and expression, so Rain Dance bottles live Woodstock-era mondo rock on its frontman's perfectly preserved flashback profundo vocals and GRB ringer Michael Carabello's congas. Hits drop like hail ("Soul Sacrifice"), but so does bracing newer fare ("Going Home"). This should be at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. ****


JOURNEY V.1

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

Journey

(Columbia) 1975

Grand Canyon kickoff "Of a Lifetime" breaks orbit on Rolie's high priest vocals summoning Schon's nuclear test range guitar. Their synthesizer/guitar duel over the Dune riff of "Kohoutek" gives way to "Topaz," another greatest fry slicing under a 1970s NorCal headwind blowing into the cosmic surf. Serious Santana atmospherics from "In My Lonely Feeling/Conversations." ****

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

Journey

Look Into the Future (Columbia) 1976

"On a Saturday Nite" opens sophomore telescopic like a bicentennial bar fight. Follow-up "It's All Too Much" does to the Beatles what Aerosmith did two years later on "Come Together," while "Anyway" refracts the Moody Blues' "Tuesday Afternoon" and blows it to kingdom come. Kansas' "Carry on Wayward Son" began life as closer "I'm Gonna Leave You." ***

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

Journey

Next (Columbia) 1977

Stepping off on hang-glider ode "Spaceman," Next forgot the question mark, disc three explosively far out ("People") but lacking a horizon. Circuit-melting superboogie ("Hustler"), monster title track ("walking across the clouds, hope I see you"), and Rush overtones ("Nickel and Dime") can't bring good "Karma" to Neal Schon's two lead vocals. ***

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

Journey

In the Beginning 1975-1977 (Columbia) 1979

Supernova cull of Journey V.1, chronologically clumping the group's first three discs before doubling back on Look Into the Future. Swap out Next's "Nickel and Dime" for LP mate "Hustler," but otherwise, 76 minutes of USDA, fusion-radiated 1970s space rock besting any German, Japanese, or UK era prog peers on Rolie's vocal omnipresence alone. Out of print. ****


JOURNEY V.2

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

Journey

Infinity (Columbia/Legacy) 1978

Opener "Lights" rolls out Steve Perry to Bay Area prom immortality. Ensuing vocal tag teams ("Feeling That Way," "Anytime") bridge Rolie's bell-bottom blues to Perry/Schon's radio ripening. "Wheel in the Sky" strafes Air Force, but Schon's segue into the cyclone portion of "Winds of March" achieves Infinity. Cover art by Fillmore iconographers Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse. ****

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

Journey

Evolution (Columbia/Legacy) 1979

Exit walloping drum deity Aynsley Dunbar, enter Jean-Luc Ponty vet Steve Smith. Beyond the high rotation bump 'n' grind of "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" and Rolie-leavened "Just the Same Way," even the return of Infinity knobber Roy Thomas Baker (Queen) can't stem the material erosion sliding headlong into album five's sophomore slump. Kelley and Mouse land the cover art franchise. **

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

Journey

Departure (Columbia/Legacy) 1980

Perry's wrested control, "Any Way You Want It" straight out of the gate, yet Rolie's single lead vocal ("Someday Soon") proves Departure's least cloying, while Schon's been reduced to thinning power chords ("Where Were You"). Heavier closer "Homemade Love" loses to sap ("People and Places"), crap ("Precious Time"). **

Journey to the Center of the Discographies

Journey

Captured (Columbia/Legacy) 1981

Recorded in 1980 on the 19-Infinity Tour, double live greatest hits summate Journey V.2 with Perry doing the heavy lifting vocally despite the tandem vox approach ("Just the Same Way") being still better than the lead singer alone ("Dixie Highway"). Strong second half encores the credits: "This album is dedicated to Bon Scott, a friend from the highway." ***

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