Gregg Rolie

Roots

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If you heard this exciting indie recording and didn't know anything about the singer/keyboardist's background, you might think he's just trying hard to capitalize on the resurgence of Latin rock epitomized by Santana's "smooth" sound. But Rolie -- whose energetic, highly percussive tunes are given that vibe via Dave Amato's various blistering guitars -- comes by the vibe legitimately, having co-founded the band Santana with Carlos in 1967. Fans of Rolie from that era and from his years as a founding member of Journey might enjoy his first solo recording in many years as a nice nostalgic visit, and the CD booklet offers many amusing photos and hairstyles that date back to Woodstock. Yet as a singer, Rolie's energy and enthusiasm for feisty Latin grooves is just as spirited as that of guys like Ricky Martin and others over 20 years younger. "Give It to Me" rocks heavy, propelled by Amato's explosive lines and a swinging brass section that doesn't quit. "Down to Rio" rocks too, but the groove is a bit more sensual after the sizzling intro. After a handful of intense electric guitar-brass explosions, the gentle flamenco sway of "Ordinary Man" makes for a nice romantic interlude; the tune also shows a gentler side of Rolie's voice, which is raspy and sometimes overly dramatic in other places. "Going Home" is a fun revisit of the sound of Santana classics like "Oye Como Va." Rolie's intention with Roots is obviously to invoke his legendary association with that band, but he pairs with Neal Schon (who co-founded Journey) on "Breakin' My Heart."

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