Santana has undergone an amazing resurgence in popularity over the past few years with canny collaborations with younger, pop vocalists.
But in the early '70s, Santana was also wildly popular, though for a different style of music. Back then, Carlos Santana and his band were experimenting with jazz fusion and playing long expansive jams.
Columbia's Legacy label has just reissued a handful of those albums, including 1977's double Moonflower album (which spawned their hit version of the Zombies' "She's Not There" and included live versions of "Black Magic Woman" and "Soul Sacrifice.")
Also revamped is 1973's Welcome, which includes one previously unissued bonus track, and Caravanaserai, also from 1973, which demonstrates Santana's interest in Eastern spiritualism.
Likewise, Carlos Santana's collaboration with John McLaughlin, 1972's Love Devotion Surrender, has been reissued and explores this mystic influence as well. The Legacy version offers two bonus tracks.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse have also been around the block a decade or three, and their latest release, Greendale, is now on the shelves. Greendale finds Young telling the stories of a number of citizens of the title town with the trademark distortion of Crazy Horse guitars fuzzing up the folksy, bluesy back-porch arrangements. The disc also comes with a DVD of Young performing the songs accoustically.
The Mavericks is the sixth album – and first release in five years – from the Grammy-winning Nashville band. The Mavericks are something of a throwback, creating rich Americana music with a classic cross-genre feel. Nicely jangling guitars, easy listening melodies and the occasional Roy Orbison-esque falsetto make this sound like an album whose songs might have been written 30 or 40 years ago.
The songs often have a south-of-the-border flair with a simple '60s heart. The string orchestra backing of "In My Dreams" takes the evocative chorus to a soaring, emotional height that few artists seem to reach in the day of electronically processed drums and synthesizers.
With "Shine a Light," the band brings on a mariachi band to create an infectious Spanish dancehall mixer.
Willie Nelson turns up to help out on the horn-accented, "na-na-na-na" duet of "Time Goes By," and the band offers one of its poppiest outings in the Beatlesque march of "Would You Believe," a jaunty look at threats of world war and destruction.
It all closes with a nostalgic cover of the Hollies classic "The Air That I Breathe." This is an album that will take you back to the rich Latin-pop and roots-rock crossover music of the '50s and '60s while still sounding contemporary.
I'm Staying Out
You might have to search a bit for this one, but the second release from former Whiskeytown member Caitlin Cary is worth tracking down.
Cary is a consummate country-rock storyteller, and her latest album includes a rich tapestry of character portraits and bittersweet melodies. "Empty Rooms," a heart-wrenching and deceptively upbeat song, opens the album with the story of a widow who's left with "a beautiful house/full of empty rooms."
That's followed by the delightfully easy-ambling "Sleeping in on Sunday," a tribute to being lazy on the weekends that's perfectly accented by Cary's lilting, but just faintly smoke-colored vocals.
Cary moves through a variety of country, folk and twang rock styles on I'm Staying Out, and even evokes a hint of Patsy Cline on the tinkling piano and blue guitar of "Please Break My Heart."
"Cello Girl" wakes the album up from that gentle sleeper, bringing to mind Mary Chapin Carpenter's strident country-rock work. And "Beauty Fades Away," with its delicate mandolin strums and melancholy reflection, ranks with the exceptional work of country singer-songwriter Matraca Berg.
The album closes with "I Want to Learn to Waltz With You" a warm, back-porch, 3/4 time head-nodder written by Stamey's dB's partner, Peter Holsapple. With its nostalgic clarinet strains and wishful lyrics, this song can't help but move the heart:
"Millions of moments and dozens of days
all of them covered in blue misty haze
what were we doing that brought us both here
maybe three-four time will help things to clear … I wanna learn to waltz."
Cary's natural talents are augmented on I'm Staying Out by a number of alternative-country icons who turn up to help out, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Don Dixon, Mitch Easter, Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed and cellist Jane Scarpantoni. This is an exceptional album by a gifted singer-songwriter that, given its independent label, will likely get overlooked by most this year. Don't miss it.
For more information, check Cary's Web site at www.caitlincary.com.