I’ve had the opportunity to hear previews of these forthcoming CDs and here’s my initial reactions:
All That I Am, Santana — Like his prior two Arista label releases, including the Grammy-winning Supernatural, this is largely Carlos as session guitarist extraordinaire. He brings in people like Michelle Branch, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas to sing and then the inimitable Santana guitar style is put on display in the bridge. Each song of this type is certainly commercially acceptable pop/rock. But I expect more from the guy. I much prefer something like the opening cut, Hermes, a bit of straightforward Latin rock sans guest. I would take a CD full of that over the majority of the more commercially viable cuts on this release.
Prairie Wind, Neil Young — The shaman of alt country/rock/grunge returns with an acoustic album that again displays his songwriting and performance abilities. This is plainly the cream of the crop of the three CDs reviewed here and, when compared to the releases earlier this year by his compatriots in CSN&Y, Neil shows he still has far more to offer us musically than they do. Prairie Wind is an often tender (“Here for You” will bring a twinge to the heart of the father of any adult daughter) and introspective Neil, perhaps due to the fact it was recorded pending and after treatment for a brain aneurysm. There are several standout cuts. “This Old Guitar” is musically reminiscent of the title cut on Harvest Moon and a beautiful exposition on being a musician. “When God Made Me” should be required listening for the religious right (but they probably still wouldn’t understand). Hopefully, this release will get the attention and sales it deserves. I highly recommend it.
Wildflower, Sheryl Crow — Okay, we all know Sheryl is in love. We all know Sheryl is a good songwriter and performer. I’m just not sure how well the two mix. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not really anything wrong with this CD. It’s perfectly acceptable pop music, Sheryl Crow-style. But there seems to be just a bit of edge lost in the happiness that suffuses some of these tunes. As with Santana’s album, this will probably do extremely well commercially. But I personally prefer the Sheryl Crow of The Globe Sessions.
Yes I miss you
But I never want to hold you down
You might say I’m here for you
I’ll always be here for you
“Here for You,” Neil Young, Prairie Wind