JORGE SANTANA “HERE I AM” CD REVIEW
© Jim McCarthy October 2009
Here I Am is the recently released “from the vaults” compilation put together by Jorge and released on his own Misha label. It follows on from his two earlier solo recordings originally recorded for Tomato Records in New York and also re-issued on CD and available on Misha and from his new website jorgesantana.com.
Here I Am is divided into five musical ventures and opens with five songs with a definite eighties feeling in production style and arrangements with big keyboard sounds and a solid band featuring Walter Afanasieff on keys/vocals plus Phil Anastasia on Lead vocals. It features Gary Brown on bass plus Yogi Newman and Rick Lawton on congas& percussion and drums respectively.
Once Is Not Enough/Para Ti opens the CD and the remastered sound quality is decent considering these are studio demos. The song has a lilting Latin cha-cha feel. In common with Jorge’s output at this time, it falls on the R&B and pop side of the musical fence. This song furthers the Latin cha-cha feel with a raspy, fluent and sharp guitarra solo by Jorge, over the refrain of “Para Ti, Para ti”. The next tune, Isolation has a jaunty funky and light summery feel, the band also managed to fit in a five-week tour around the New York area while these demos were being shopped. The “title” track Here I Am is a mid-tempo piece that didn’t lift me particularly but is competent and features an arrangement steeped in synth washes. Runaway Love has that AOR sound typical of that era with big backing chords by Jorge, It has a rousing chorus and a sound not unlike Carlos’ output around the Inner Secrets/Marathon recorded era. Tell Me Love is another up-tempo with a great vocal by Walter aka Dean Parrish, Jorge plays fifties style rhythm guitar licks on here.
For my money the jewels on this CD follow with Jorge’s collaboration with the Mission District group Puro Bandido. Casa Bandido is pure Latino magic! It starts with a three chord, slightly melancholic refrain with excellent guitar atmospherics by Jorge and Johnny Gunn, before breaking into a salsa inflected joyous song, featuring Richard Segovia (previously of the TNT band) on timbales and Rafael Ramirez on congas and Angel Orozco on drum kit!
This is truly a great cut, both fully steeped in the San Franciscan Latino-Mission tradition but with a fresh and uplifting vibe. The song kicks with excellent compressed vocals. Superb horns and arrangement see this song would not be out of place on one of Carlos’ recent stellar releases. They name check Puerto Rico, Salvador and the Mission thru this great
and very danceable song. Jorge plays a dreamy and soulful guitar break over the middle eight and is followed by a great trombone solo. One would really like to hear Puro Bandido releasing some more stuff- this is excellent. It fades with a guitar break by Johnny Gunn-top notch!!
Latin Lover follows with a Jose Santana (Tony Santana, Jorge’s older brother is Jose’s father making him Jorge’s nephew) rap over another Puro Bandido arrangement. This is another smoking cut which strides confidently along with superb excellent ensemble playing, including backing vocals by Heather Lauren and The Herrera Sisters.
A cascara timbale rhythm by Richard Segovia propels this cut along with a supreme gusto and features another Jorge solo full of controlled fire, followed by a flourishing keyboard solo by Steve Salinas. Yet another musical high point on this CD.
Rainbows Of Love is notable for a closely recorded conga tumbao by Yogi Newman (apparently Newman had an even bigger afro-head than Mike Carabello or Arcelio Garcia and is these days living a hermetic life, out of the music scene) and it would be great to hear congas recorded with this “loudness’ more often. This also features a stirring Jorge solo over a double time vamp.
The fourth set of tunes feature old Malo running mate Richard Bean on chief vocals and song writing. It also features Ron DeMasi from the last two Malo albums on Warner (Evolution & Ascension)
Bar Of Five instrumental shows DeMasi playing some synth and other keyboard clavinet style solo funkiness over a driving beat, the is a real cooker and these recordings hail from 1977 and were demoed at San Francisco’s CBS Studios in Folsom Street. The drummer Jerry Marshall wrote this cut and these could be DeMasi’s last recorded performances.
Sandy and Darling I Love You, originally featured on the Jorge Santana solo release, are given a different dance mix airing here and shows Bean’s pop take on Latin, with an almost Neil Sedaka feel to proceedings, with an ample disco-style beat produced by Tony Bongiovi and Bob Clearmountain.
Of great interest to Malo fans are two cuts from Sesame Street, Bienvenidos (Welcome) and Show Me How You Feel (Como To Sientes) featuring the redoubtable Tony Smith on drums and Lead vocals along with Jorge. Welcome is great as it aims to teach a person listening basic Spanish. It has great (Ascension era-Malo) horns and a pumping Pablo Tellez bass aided and abetted by Jorge on a nice piercing solo. A cool way to round off this varied CD package.
For guitar followers Jorge has added information on the guitars and amps used thru-out these recordings.
I had a conversation with Jorge about the future and he aims to release at least two more CD’s of material next year. He informed me he had been listening to archive recorded with Richard Kermode and Pablo Tellez from 1981 and another piece (A Bit Of Spice) recorded with Karl Perazzo, both among others, which should find their way onto the next CD release in 2010.
Of great interest is the Malo “fifth” set of recordings demoed after Ascension in San Francisco (not to be confused with Malo 5 released in New York on Traq Records, under the name of Arcelio Garcia) and featuring Pablo, Ron De Masi, Butch Haynes on percussion. Further down the line Jorge is planning to release these rarities and I know all Mission Latino heads will be looking forward to hearing this historical material.
Tags: Arcelio Garcia, Carlos Santana, Jorge Santana, Latin Rock, Malo, Mission District, NEW YORK, Pablo Tellez, Puro Bandido, Richard Bean, Ron De Masi, San Francisco, Santana, Sesame Street, Tony Smith