Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new major label releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...
Santana – “Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time”
I guess when creativity dries up one can always cover the songs of other artists and hope your name is sufficient to sell the result. Rod Stewart has been inexplicably successful with this strategy, and now the legendary Santana is taking a stab at it. Santana’s new record, however, tries to entertain us with his renditions of “guitar classics”, sung by a host of diverse artists from Joe Cocker to Nas. While no one will dispute Santana’s talents on the axe, there is plenty to dispute about the song choices. “Under The Bridge” (Red Hot Chili Peppers), “Riders On The Storm” (The Doors), and “Bang A Gong” (T. Rex) are not what come to mind when I think of GUITAR classics. I will admit there was an inkling of curiosity to hear Pat Monahan (Train) sing “Dance The Night Away” or Daughtry take on Def Leppard’s “Photograph”, but there is no reason to listen to these novelties more than once. And then to hear Nas rap AC/DC’s “Back In Black”, Scott Stapp (Creed) karaoke CCR’s “Fortunate Son”, and Rob Thomas slither to Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” – these are just stomach turning. Joe Cocker’s singing of “Little Wing” (Jimi Hendrix) is pretty decent and the cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by India.Arie and Yo-Yo Ma is quite beautiful, but other than that I’d steer clear of this one.
Bryan Adams - “Bare Bones”
Just before the world started to ignore 80s hit maker Bryan Adams, he released a well received “unplugged” album (1997). Now over a decade later, he has released another record in this format. As the title suggests, these performances are stripped down to voice, guitar, and/or piano. The tunes were performed live, so an easy record for Adams to throw together. Adams manages to fit 20 tracks on here, mostly because he abbreviates some of the tunes. He leaves off some solid hits, but that is OK because it leaves room for some lesser known numbers that sound great naked like “Cloud Number Nine”, “Walk On By”, and “You’ve Been A Friend To Me”. Adams still sounds terrific after all these years and I enjoyed listening to the stripped down versions of “Cuts Like A Knife”, “Summer of ‘69”, and “Heaven” on acoustic guitar. Many of the ballads, which are sparse anyway, are just too similar to the superior original. I wouldn’t recommend this release for a casual fan, but if you love Bryan Adams, this one is worthy of your collection.