Quannum Label Distribution/Red

Here – let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Salvador Santana’s dad is a guitar player named Carlos. Which is cool, but has nothing to do with what’s going on with the music on Keyboard City. (Not that Salvador isn’t proud of his roots; he’s just serious about traveling a path of his own making.)

Hit “play” on Santana’s new solo album and you really do enter Keyboard City: you’re greeted by street noise and a distant piano (playing what you’ll realize later on is the melody to the title track). Suddenly – pow – you’re spinning in the lights on the club floor, the hip-hop beat of “We Got Somethin’” shaking the woofers. You’ve no more settled into that when things take a turn for the light-hearted and jazzy with “Don’t Even Care” (no, not a tale of despondence – no worries here) . which in turn sets you up for Santana’s ode to the “Frisco mindset,” “Under the Sun”. By now, you’re probably catching on: nothing stands still for very long in Keyboard City.

Santana was mentored throughout the recording process by Beastie Boy studio magician Money Mark and Bay Area producer Del the Funky Homosapien. (Besides inspiration, Money Mark shared his studio and crazy array of vintage keyboards and equipment . which make appearances throughout the album.)

The vibe of Keyboard City is a positive one. The title track – a nod to love lost – is as close as things could’ve gotten to a downer, but Santana’s vocoded vocals tell the tale sonically as well as lyrically: he’ll get by as long as he can call “Keyboard City” home. “Salaboutmoney”‘s sound lies somewhere between modern-day rap and 1973 O’Jays. And speaking of things of that vintage, “This Day (Belongs To You)” could easily have been an early-70’s soul classic itself with its laid-back, positive message and one-pass-and-you’re-singing-along chorus. Joe Harper (yep, brother of Ben) does some testifying of his own on slide guitar.

In the end, the album’s closing track sums things up nicely: “Keep Smilin’”, advises Santana. It sounds like he was doing a lot of that while laying down the tracks for Keyboard City.