As I stepped outside my front door today, it felt like any God-given September morning. The birds were singing, the sun was shining through a clear blue sky, Hitler was still dead, Bruce Springsteen was still alive and a mild breeze awakened my senses more than any cup of coffee ever could. Had I not known better, I would’ve thought all was right with the world. But all is not right with the world. In fact, dark clouds of evil are on the horizon, ready to rain down artistic atrocity upon the music world.
No, things are not all right. Yes, a disaster indeed looms. A disaster with such frightening potential for apocalyptic destruction, that you should already be fortifying your doors and windows to keep the marauders out. FEMA’s official website (which you should study thoroughly) provides a comprehensive guide to planning and preparing for any kind of imminent cataclysm. Well, almost any kind of imminent cataclysm, as nowhere on the site is what I’m about to drop on you addressed. So, what is it that’s making me feel like Sarah Connor on the eve of Judgment Day? Well, the reason I started cowering in fear and preliminary mourning this morning is that today, Sept. 21, will mark the release of what might very well be the worst record in the history of rock ’n’ roll: Santana’s Guitar Heaven — a record that will see Carlos Santana attempt to tear down the holy temple of rock ’n’ roll by enlisting a wrecking crew of microphone-wielding rockers of different generations to join him in squandering whatever life is left in a painfully predictable revue of rock staples — or as the title suggests, The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time.
The fallout resulting from Santana ingratiating himself to the dark side of the pop charts is incalculable. At the time he was featured on the nightmarish come-back hit “Smooth,” Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas was on the fast-track to flash-in-the-pan oblivion — now look at him. While I’m sorry for getting that deplorably deplorable song stuck in yours (and my own) head again — as is bound to happen by the mere mention of its name — something tells me we’ve only just begun to learn the meaning of pain. Let me put it this way: If you thought Santana collaborating with Rob Thomas on that original composition was bad, imagine what it’s gonna sound like when the two of them run a train over Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” Or when Train’s Pat Monahan sings your will to live away atop Santana modifying Eddie Van Halen licks into the Dorian mode on a version of “Dance the Night Away.” Man, I bet the lava from that rock ’n’ roll eruption is gonna be hot!
I know, it’s horrifying to think such musical horrors exist. Right? Well, it gets worse. I dare you to even try and hear in your mind’s ear the horrible harmonies you’ll find when Santana and Ray Manzarek team up with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington for a modern-day take on The Door’s “Riders on the Storm.”
Are you wheezing yet? No. Well what if I told you Carlos & Co. have tapped Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix to man the mic for an update of “Smoke on the Water”? Or if I just happened to mention that Scott Weiland has graced the vocal both to cut it up on the Stones’ classic “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” while Chris Cornell will commit his Robert Plant impersonation to wax on album-opening rendition of “Whole Lotta Love.” Man, this album is seriously a dozen Neil Hamburger jokes waiting to happen.
More innocuous collaborations will include India.Arie and Yo-Yo Ma helping Santana betray George Harrison more than Eric Clapton ever could have via a version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and Joe Cocker and the black magic one setting Jimi Hendrix’s legacy alight on “Little Wing.” And while Daughtry’s Chris Daughtry lending his talents to the Santanification of Def Leppard’s “Photograph” may be the perfect sell for the Walmart crowd, the world needs that about as much as another version of “Bang a Gong.” Speaking of which, Gavin Rossdale will help Santana get it on for a rendition of “Bang a Gong.”
And for those musical masochists out there who won’t be able to punish themselves enough over the course of the album’s initial 12 tracks, a deluxe edition featuring a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge” and, get this, Scott Stapp “singing” CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” will also be available. If you've seen Inglourious Basterds, just think of Stapp as this package's Bear Jew — ready, waiting and willing to come from the shadows and deliver an aluminum deathblow to a condemned captive.
Finally, Santana will prove that the only thing worse than a luminary of the Woodstock era selling his soul to ride the coattails of, say, The Calling, is one trying to praise almighty rock ’n’ roll more than a decade after forsaking it. Albums like this are not rock albums, they’re depictions of rock albums. Horrible, inept, inaccurate and tacky depictions of rock albums that A) don't rock, and B) are a greater tribute to a desperate artist’s bottom line than they are to the legacy of any classic genre.
Of course, I still haven’t heard Guitar Heaven yet, so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s GREAT!