I’ve been wanting to do this ever since the new Santana cd came out. So I’m finally getting around to it.
Back in September, Carlos Santana released an album called “Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time.” Really? OF ALL TIME?? That’s a pretty monumental task, don’t you think? Well, let’s check it out and see if we agree. I’ll go over the track list.
Track 1: Whole Lotta Love Ok. No argument, here. Good Zeppelin guitar song, and a pretty nice arrangement, and even the vocals by typically boring Chris Cornell aren’t bad. Number 11 on the Rolling Stone list of 100 greatest guitar songs.
Track 2: Can’t You Hear Me Knocking Not exactly a “classic,” is it? It’s a rather obscure Rolling Stones song (even though Rolling Stone magazine lists it as number 25 on its 100 greatest guitar songs of all time. But by 2004, Rolling Stone magazine wasn’t about music any more, was it? Nevertheless, the arrangement is pretty good, with Scott Weiland on vocals.
Track 3: Sunshine of Your Love Really, Carlos? I mean, while I absolutely love Cream and Clapton, you’re going to pick THAT song over “Crossroads???” Whatever. The arrangement is okay with Rob Thomas on vocals. Not on the Rolling Stone list, while “Crossroads” is number 3 and “White Room” is number 55.
Track 4: While My Guitar Gently Weeps The Rolling Stone lists this song as number 7 on their list. I love the song, and have always thought it was beautiful, but just because it has the word “guitar” in the title doesn’t make it a great guitar song. I don’t agree with that place on the RS list, nor do I think it is one of the “greatest guitar classics of all time.” And this arrangement is one of the worst destructions of a “guitar classic” I’ve ever heard. I absolutely hate it. Worst song on the album.
Track 5: Photograph Heh. Nice arrangement, with Daughtry on vocals. I didn’t see any Def Leppard on the Rolling Stone list. I was skimming, so I might have missed it. It’s a good arrangement, but certainly not one of the “greatest guitar classics of all time.”
Track 6: Back In Black Nas on vocals. A rap version of an AC/DC song. I can’t say enough bad things about this arrangement. I take back what I said about number 4. THIS is the worst song on the album. The song is listed as number 29 on the Rolling Stone list.
Track 7: Riders On the Storm What? Really? Chester Bennington on vocals and features Ray Manzarek, I assume on the organ. This song is certainly not found on the Rolling Stone list. And, frankly, it’s quite silly to even consider this song when making a list that you’re going to call “the greatest guitar classics of all time.” I even listened to the original to make sure I wasn’t missing something. It’s mostly piano with just a tad of guitar. Very bad choice for this album.
Track 8: Smoke On the Water C’mon, Carlos! Can you get any more cliche?? I know…every fledgling guitar player that ever picked up an electric guitar learned this song first. It’s a fun song to play. Twice. After that, it gets pretty boring. And even though it’s Deep Purple’s trademark song, there are way better Purple songs to pick. I did catch what appears to be a “shout-out” to Blackmore’s song “Burn” during the opening, though. Jacoby Shaddix on vocal. Who’s that? Oh. Papa Roach. Even the Rolling Stone knows better than to put “Smoke” on the top 100 list.
Track 9: Dance the Night Away Pat Monahan, lead singer of Train, on vocal. Oops! Missed again. True, it’s Van Halen, but even among Van Halen songs, it’s not one of the better “guitar songs.” Arrangement is okay. Also not on the Rolling Stone list.
Track 10: Bang A Gong Gavin Rossdale on vocal. Also not on the Rolling Stone list. I will say I like the arrangement, though. Very nice. But…again. NOT one of the “greatest guitar classics.”
Track 11: Little Wing NOW you’re talkin’! Joe Cocker on vocals. It’s about time we hear some Hendrix/Stevie Ray on this album. No argument from me on this one. Rolling Stone put SRV’s version of this at number 54 on their list. That’s WAY too low. Very tasty arrangement.
Track 12: I Ain’t Superstitious Jonny Lang on vocals. This is a Jeff Beck song, I believe. Which automatically makes it a prospect for a guitar classic. Number 86 on the Stone list. I have to confess I don’t know this song. But this arrangement is rockin’ and Lang’s vocals are killer. So I’ll say this one fits the album, too.
Track 13: Fortunate Son Hahaha….really? Scott Stapp on vocals. This is a Creedence Clearwater Revival song, in case anyone doesn’t remember. Not on the Stone list, although “Born on the Bayou” is. The arrangement is tolerable.
Track 14: Under the Bridge Andy Vargas on vocals. Again…seriously?? Ok, Rolling Stone actually lists this song as number 98 on its list, but I don’t get that. I’m not sure who Andy Vargas is….he’s listed as the “lead singer for Santana” on lastfm.com. Anyway…once again, a miss on this album, as far as I’m concerned. But I don’t like the Chili Peppers, so my opinion is swayed a little, already.
On the Japanese edition, there’s a track 15, “La Grange.” That should have been on our edition instead of, maybe, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” or even “Riders On the Storm.”
Ok. Bottom line. You really set yourself up when you make an album with a pretentious title like “Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time.” And while I don’t agree 100% with the Rolling Stone’s list, it does have some very good guitar songs on it, and quite a few of these so-called “Guitar Classics” didn’t even make that list. “Crossroads” should have been on here, rather than “Sunshine.” And if you’re going to do “Smoke,” you might as well do “Stairway to Heaven,” right. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he didn’t… What about some Allman Brothers, like “Statesboro Blues?” Or “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” by Nirvana? What about “Born To Run” by Springsteen? “Over Under Sideways Down,” by the Yardbirds…maybe instead of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” “Sultans of Swing,” by Dire Straits…now THERE’S a guitar classic.
I like a lot of these arrangements. A couple I hated. I just find it very pretentious of Santana to put this album out with this name. It makes me think that he thinks that just putting some trademark Santana guitar licks on a song makes it a “guitar classic.” And calling it “Guitar Heaven” makes me think Santana believes himself to be “Guitar God.” He is good. I’ll give him that. But he’s no “god.”
Remember….these are all just opinions, and are to be taken as only that. There’s no right or wrong, here. And, like I said, I enjoyed listening to many of these tracks. It’s good Santana (except for a couple of tracks), and some good arrangements. Just a bad choice of title, and some bad song choices for an album with that title.