Life is a lady....
Released October 1978
Coming at the height of punk, this contemporaneously incongruous album saw Santana shift from the Latin-influenced soul of the previous few albums to the adult-oriented rock sound that was to dominate their eighties output. There was surprisingly little Latin rhythm on the album at all. It is basically a rock/disco/soul album.
Current music trends meant little, although the nods to disco are clear. If the previous year's "Festival" had dabbled in soul, this one did so with disco. Although this is a little-mentioned Santana album, I really quite like it.
1. Dealer/Spanish Rose
2. Move On
3. One Chain (Don't Make No Prison)
5. Well All Right
6. Open Invitation
7. Life Is A Lady/Holiday
8. The Facts Of Love
"Dealer/Spanish Rose" is a breezy, melodic opener, despite its lyrics about a shady drug dealer. It is a cover of a Traffic song, from their 1967 "Mr. Fantasy" album. It has some sumptuous guitar riffs and intoxicating rhythms, as we had come to expect from Santana. The percussion backing on the verses and guitar interplay is gorgeous. "Move On" has a delicious, almost funky groove and here is where a slight disco feel can be found, but only very slightly. Carlos Santana interjects some classic guitar half way through over some sweet, soulful vocals. Greg Walker is back on lead vocals (his previous appearance was on 1976's "Amigos"). "One Chain (Don't Make No Prison)" is a cover of a 1974 Four Tops song and appears here as an extended disco groove, this most definitely had the disco feel about it, and is the first obviously disco track from the group. It doesn't stop Carlos adding some knife-through-butter guitar though. The funky backing is quite addictive at times, although seven minutes long, it doesn't get tiring. Fair play to Santana for experimenting with these sounds that were very much the sounds of the time.
"Stormy" is an absolutely sublime slice of laid-back soul/rock. It is a cover of a 1968 hit for a group called Classics IV, who I have to admit to not being familiar with. The dual guitar interplay near the end is excellent. "Well All Right" is a slowed-down, chunky, riffy rock cover of the Buddy Holly number. It works convincingly, with more trademark Santana guitar throughout.
"Open Invitation" is a muscular, once more riffy rock number. Excellent stuff and very different to any of the Santana fare we had become used to, either the Latin rhythms, soul grooves or experimental, meditative material of the mid-seventies. A classic Carlos solo introduces the graceful "Life Is A Lady/Holiday". The final part of the instrumental is an appealing first outing for some percussive Latin rhythms.
"The Facts Of Love" is just wonderful - a beguiling, soul vibe and vocal to it and a stately majesty all over it. "Wham!" ties up the album with its only extended bit of Latin percussion and some recognisable Santana guitar. This is an album well worth checking out if you like the AOR side of Santana. You can't go too far wrong with it, if indeed that is your bag. Carlos does look like Manuel from "Fawlty Towers" on the cover, though.