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Music Review: Gregg Rolie Band – Rain Dance

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To call Gregg Rolie a musical legend is a ridiculous understatement.  After all, this is a man who co-founded not one, but two legendary rock bands: the astounding, rock/Latin fusion of Santana and the greatest melodic-rock band ever, Journey.

He was in Santana up to and including Caravansarai (aka the good years), before heading off with fellow Santana man, guitarist Neal Schon, to found Journey. Taking the latter band's jazz-fusion roots through the peaks of their melodic rock success, Rolie then departed Journey at their commercial peak in 1981.

The eighties saw Rolie releasing a couple of solo albums, as well as returning to Santana for the Freedom and Shango albums. The nineties saw him forming the underrated band, The Storm, whose two albums of mainstream, melodic rock are well worth checking out.  Come 2001, and he put out his finest solo album, Roots, a record that (as the title suggests) recalled his Latin-rock roots. It's an album I still play on a near-weekly basis.

Rain Dance is a live album, recorded back in 2007, which saw Rolie back with fellow Santana co-founder Michael Carabello, former Santana bassist Alphonso Johnson as well as Adrian Areas (son of original Santana percussionist, Jose Chepito Areas). You won't be surprised, therefore, to learn that the music performed leans heavily on the material they helped create and perform in the late sixties and early seventies, when Gregg Rolie was Santana's voice as well as the band's keyboardist.

Songs like "No One To Depend On", "Gypsy Queen" and "Oye Como Va" are among the most life-affirming music ever. Works of pure emotion — particularly with a band this good — still cause a shiver to run down my spine after all this time.  A couple of tracks from the Roots album slot in seamlessly beside the older material as well. Rolie is still in fine voice and the album overall is an absolute treat.

The band even gets the chance to kick out the jams on a ten-minute-plus version of Deadric Malone's blues classic, "As The Years Go Passing By," giving guitarist Kurt Griffet a chance to shine.  However, once the percussion kicks in, I guarantee you've never heard a version quite like this one.

With Carlos Santana having gotten bogged down in his all-star albums of diminishing returns, this performance and this band comfortably outshines anything he's put his name to in recent years. It's now been 40 years since the Santana band tore up Woodstock, so there's no better time to take another listen to some of the finest music ever written.

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About Stuart A Hamilton

  • PAUL

    Great article, very well written. Many thanks for the extra info on The Strom etc. Can’t add anything more.

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