Carlos Santana knows the power of a good guest vocalist: His 1999 album Supernatural, which paired the guitarist with a youthful cast of star singers, sold 28 million copies. His forthcoming Guitar Heaven (out September 21st) tweaks the formula, teaming Santana with singers to cover a healthily diverse mix of guitar-centric rock tracks. (See the song listing below.) Santana invited three of his new partners — Chris Daughtry, India.Arie and Gavin Rossdale — when he debuted the album last Wednesday, in a special edition of his residency at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel.
Before the show, Sony Music mogul Clive Davis (who signed Santana in 1969) played eight cuts from the disc for journalists and guests like NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton and Mary Wilson of the Supremes. Two big highlights: Surprisingly heavy renditions of AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” featuring Nas and Janelle Monáe, and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” punctuated by Chris Cornell screaming his head off. When the band came onstage, they powered through “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va” and “Maria Maria” (staples of the Santana residency) before bringing out India.Arie, who put a feminine, earthy spin on George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” as Olivia Harrison, George’s widow, watched. “When I think of that song,” Arie told Rolling Stone, “I always had this vision of George Harrison being at home with his wife and his kids, and going in at five o’clock in the morning and playing his guitar to himself. I imagined that and put a sensual energy on it.”
Chris Daughtry, who met Santana for the first time in rehearsal, offered a spirited take on Def Leppard’s “Photograph.” “I don’t have the Joe Elliott range, but I’ll do what I can with it,” Daughtry had warned, but he nailed all the big notes and brought the crowd to its feet.
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Gavin Rossdale bounced around the stage while singing T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong” and the evening’s highlight, “She’s Not There” by the Zombies, which morphed into a free-form jam as Santana issued precision licks and wails of feedback. Earlier in the day, Rossdale gushed about a prized memento from the Guitar Heaven recording sessions: a “gracious and mind-blowing” thank-you note from Santana, which the Bush singer says he has affixed to his bathroom wall.
“You see Carlos onstage and the way he approaches the instrument and the passion he brings to his music,” Clive Davis said after the show. “Ecstasy is the word, when you see him playing.” Davis, meanwhile, literally crossed his fingers when suggested Guitar Heaven might reach the commercial heights attained by Supernatural. Santana’s passion — and Rolodex — can’t even guarantee that.
Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time
“Whole Lotta Love” featuring Chris Cornell (Led Zeppelin)
“Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” featuring Scott Weiland (The Rolling Stones)
“Sunshine Of Your Love” featuring Rob Thomas (Cream)
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” featuring india.arie and Yo-Yo Ma (The Beatles)
“Dance the Night Away” featuring Pat Monahan (Van Halen)
“Back In Black” featuring Nas and Janelle Monáe (AC/DC)
“Riders On the Storm” featuring Chester Bennington and Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
“Smoke On the Water” featuring Jacoby Shaddix (Deep Purple)
“Photograph” featuring Chris Daughtry (Def Leppard)
“Bang A Gong” featuring Gavin Rossdale (T. Rex)
“Little Wing” featuring Joe Cocker (Jimi Hendrix)
“I Ain’t Superstitious” featuring Jonny Lang (Howlin’ Wolf, Jeff Beck Group)