The Austin Chronicle

Texas Platters

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, April 18, 2008, Music


Thicker Than Water (VMG/Quadra)

Not even Guitarlos himself cooks up platters this Santana anymore. Produced by Austin's Vallejo Bros. – A.J., Omar, and Alejandro, whose triple-threat writing credit is stamped on 12 of the album's 13 tracks (one being a Carlos Santana/Gregg Rolie original) – Thicker Than Water boils down to Vallejo's crowning achievement thus far. "Here we go now, hold on," announces A.J. straightaway as the opening title cut tees off a seamless whole of 1970s rock Latinate. Muscled elan ("Live"), strutting anti-war vulnerability ("What Will It Take?"), the simple unburdening of "Let It Go": Thicker Than Water hemorrhages hooks and a tan. Standing in for Santana's "Smooth" and missing only Rob Thomas, walking on Water's "Sweet Maria" lacks only the supernatural riff of its late-album mate "Without You" to stroke out Clive Davis. As with the rest of the disc, A.J., who plays nearly "all guitars" on the album, paints "Maria" with a fire-engine lead, then leaves lengthy soloing and jams at home, though the steel-plated cover of the master's "Hope You're Feeling Better" smelts a guitar fortress. Better still, A.J.'s gaucho vocals, smoothly Spanish on closer "Tu Corazon Es Para Mi," a collaboration with Zayra Alvarez and Del Castillo, seals this family affair, engineered by Omar with art direction by Alejandro. Percussive cantina hooks ("Salvation") kick tropically immaculate, while instrumental "Sonata del Toro," grooved by the Grooveline Horns and more Del Castillo, sparks another fiery fiesta. Deep-disc lope "Temporary Thing" comes down from this ATX troupe's onslaught. Thicker Than Water and bloody well righteous.


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