There’s still a lot of power to Santana, but it gets squandered pretty thoroughly on this album, as producer Val Garay shoehorns the band into a series of unflattering and ill-managed bids for mass-market acceptance. Garay has them trying everything, from the rap of “Brotherhood” to the Genesis-style pomp of “How Long,” but throughout, Santana exhibits more competence than enthusiasm. Even material that would have suited the band in the past, such as Curtis Mayfield’s “I’m the One Who Loves You,” falls embarrassingly flat, as singer Greg Walker fails to connect with the lugubrious rhythm section.
It’s hard to blame the band for this debacle, though. In fact, given the talent assembled – keyboardist David Sancious, bassist Alphonso Johnson, drummer Chester Thompson – Santana may have been better off going for a jazz-fusion feel than forcing a pop approach. As it is, Beyond Appearances hardly bears consideration on any level.