‘In Search Of Mona Lisa’ Is Enjoyable, But Leaves Listeners In Search Of More

February 10, 2019 by: admin

Courtesy: Concord Records

By Philip Sayblack

It goes without saying that Carlos Santana is one of the greatest musicians in the modern history of music.  He has crafted countless hit songs that have led to just as many awards and garnered just as many fans around the world.  Late last month, Santana continued that ongoing success – sort of — with the release of his new EP In Search of Mona Lisa.  The record is enjoyable, but honestly, it does leaving one wanting for more, and not in a good way.  That is not to say that the record is a complete loss.  It does have some positives, one of which being the three original tracks that make up the majority of the 27-minute record.  They will be discussed shortly.  The other two songs featured on the record’s back side are the record’s most prominent negative.  They will be discussed a little bit later.  The EP’s other positive is its sequencing.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of In Search of Mona Lisa.  All things considered, they make this record its own enjoyable work of musical art, but not his most memorable work of musical art.

In Search of Mona Lisa is an interesting new offering from veteran guitarist and composer Carlos Santana.  While not his greatest work to date, it is not an entirely forgettable work.  That is thanks in part to the three original songs that make up the majority of the EP’s body.  Those three songs are ‘Do You Remember Me,’ ‘In Search of Mona Lisa’ and ‘Leaves From Another Time.’  What makes this trio of compositions stand out more than anything is their arrangements.  The first work is classic Carlos Santana.  It is a nine-minute-plus opus that while yes it conjures thoughts of the classic work ‘Guantanamera’ in its guitar line, the song’s overall composition is what makes it stand out.  It starts out so gently and relaxed, gradually adding in an extra layer approximately five minutes into the song with vocals and plenty of familiar Latin percussion (cabasa, bongos, congas, timbales and shaker) and subtle piano line.  Vocals and a bass line join in gradually, too, to make the song in whole a work that will have any listener dancing along happily.

The EP’s title track follows, and is quite different stylistically from ‘Do You Remember Me.’ This track, which barely tops the five-minute mark, sounds more akin to something that belongs on a Joe Bonamassa record than Santana.  That is evident through Santana’s infectious bluesy guitar line and the gritty vocal performance presented this time out.  Not having liner notes to reference, this critic cannot say for certain who the vocalist is, though it is certain that it is not Joe Bonamassa.  That aside, the distinctly different approach to this song’s arrangement versus that of ‘Do You Remember Me’ makes for a welcome change of pace that is certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  The song’s lyrical content is just as certain to keep listeners engaged, as the vocalist sings, “All the women of the world/Ain’t got nothin’ on her/When I stood in front of her/Lookin’ eye to eye/She said to me/Do you remember/When we were lovers/In another time/Here we are again/I can feel you heart/Deep in time with mine/Oh, it’s eternal love/I was searching/My Mona Lisa/My Mona Lisa.”  While it is said that this EP was centered on Santana’s interaction with the famed Mona Lisa portrait in Paris, this song obviously is about another Mona Lisa.  That adds even more interest to the song, and in turn shows even more why the EP’s main songs are so important to its whole.

While ‘Do You Remember Me’ and ‘In Search of Mona Lisa’ are both clear examples of why this EP’s primary songs are so important to the record’s overall presentation, they are not its only key compositions.  ‘Lovers From Another Time,’ the third and final original offering featured in In Search of Mona Lisa stands out in large part because of its own arrangement.  This work takes Santana’s familiar Latin sound and crosses it with an old-school 1960s lounge jazz style arrangement for a whole that is quite the surprisingly interesting work.  On the surface, one might not think such a hybrid composition would work, but it certainly does work here.  That is evidenced in the juxtaposition of Santana’s fiery guitar work and the subtlety of the piano and strings.  The drumming here is just as fiery as Santana’s work, with strong fills and solid time keeping throughout.  The result of the whole presents a sound that one could argue is a sort of fusion jazz arrangement.  Again, it is a change-up that keeps the record interesting and engaging for listeners.  When this work is considered along with its predecessors, the whole of these three songs creates a strong foundation for In Search of Mona Lisa.

While the three primary songs featured in In Search of Mona Lisa give the record a strong foundation, the two songs that follow make that same foundation a little bit shaky.  That is because despite the marketing from the people at Concord Records they are not original works.  Rather, they are essentially just radio edits of the EP’s first two songs.  The edit of ‘Do You Remember Me’ is a time-edited piece that opens where the vocals kick in during the original work.  In other words, the instrumental portion of the original is completely omitted here in this edit.  The edit of ‘In Search of Mona Lisa’ is more subtle, with the variances more difficult to notice, but it is cut back by almost a minute and a half in terms of its run time.  That means that plenty of content has been omitted from this cut in comparison to the final presentation.  Now on the one hand, it can be argued that adding these two edits to the EP is good because it creates more appreciation for the “final cuts.”  At the same time though, the variances between the edits and the originals are so minute that in reality, the edits become inconsequential, and in turn unnecessary.  Audiences have already spoken out, and correctly so, that it would have been better to have had two more original songs featured in the record than the two edits.  At least the people in Santana’s camp have finally stopped alleging the EP has five new songs, and pointed out that it only has three new songs.  Either way, at least audiences have the edits for the sake of comparison, if nothing more.  To that end, the record still could have gone just as easily without the edits as with.

While the songs featured in In Search of Mona Lisa are clearly key in their own way to the whole of the EP, they are just part of the record that should be examined.  The record’s sequencing plays into its presentation, too.  As already noted, the three primary songs that make up the bulk of this record are each stylistically different from one another.  That alone keeps the EP interesting.  Keeping in mind the songs’ stylistic variances, their energies are just as varied.  ‘Do You Remember Me’ is a relaxed, casual piece that moves along smoothly from start to finish of the more than nine-minute opus.  The relaxed vibe of that arrangement gives way immediately to the more upbeat vibe of the EP’s title track, which is just as danceable as the EP’s opener.  From there, the EP’s energy pulls back again with ‘Lovers From Another Time.’  This song’s arrangement returns the record’s energy back to that smooth, subtle feel presented in the record’s opener, letting listeners relax yet again.  The up and down of the energies here shows clearly that certain time and thought was put into the record’s sequencing.  It shows that the EP’s creative forces wanted to insure listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  That attention to detail paid off, too.  Keeping that in mind along with the songs’ arrangements, the two elements do plenty to make the EP a welcome offering from Carlos Santana, but certainly a work that leaves listeners wanting for more.

Carlos Santana’s latest studio recording, the five-song EP In Search of Mona Lisa is an enjoyable new offering from the veteran musician and composer.  However, it is also a record that leaves listeners in search of more from the world-renowned guitarist.  That is due to the two edits that are featured alongside the EP’s three original works.  Those original works, and their sequencing go collectively a long way toward the EP’s enjoyment.  Considered along with the issue of the edits, the EP in whole proves to be enjoyable, but not one of his greatest works of musical art.  In Search of Mona Lisa is available now.  More information on the record is available online now along with all of Santana’s latest news and more at:

Websitehttp://www.santana.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/carlossantana

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/SantanaCarlos

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