Review: Isley Bros & Santana are ‘Power of Peace’ advocates
The Isley Brothers & Santana, “Power of Peace” (Sony Legacy)
Ronald and Ernie Isley team up with Carlos Santana on the vigorous “Power of Peace,” putting their stamp on mostly spiritually inclined songs from the likes of Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, Bacharach & David and Swamp Dogg.
Ronald Isley guested on “Santana IV,” the 2016 album which reunited most of the band’s original lineup, and the collaboration continues here, with Santana’s current band providing the foundations and Ernie Isley’s guitar pyrotechnics proving a harmonious foil for the bandleader.
Versions of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions’ “Gypsy Woman,” a pair of Chamber Brothers songs, Leon Thomas’ “Let the Rain Fall on Me,” Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and Eddie Kendricks’ “Body Talk” stick close to the originals, sometimes adding an excessive dose of intensity.
Santana lets it rip near the end of the seven-minute “God Bless the Child,” otherwise an oasis of restraint, and Ronald Isley is in great form throughout.
Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” is pushed over the top and ends up sounding like an audition for an NBA promotion, name-checking many of the league’s legends and stars.
Cindy Blackman Santana wrote the record’s sole original, “I Remember,” which she sings with Ronald Isley. The ballad is a true revelation — tonal shades of Brazil and Santana’s delicate guitar lines heighten the regret. Hopefully Blackman Santana, married to Carlos and also the band’s astonishing drummer, will contribute more songs to the next album.
Reinforcing their advocacy, the Isleys and Santana close shop with parochial school and Christmas stalwart “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Indeed.