Throughout the years, musicians have always collaborated with each other on individual songs. However, not too many artists have collaborated on an entire album that can change one’s outlook. Legendary musicians Santana (Carlos and Cindy Santana) and The Isley Brothers recorded a studio album, Power of Peace, that was released earlier this month.
The musical pioneers’ journey in the studio was a dream come true — it was a release of creative tension. Santana and The Isleys were inspired by so many genres while recording Power of Peace, including soul, funk, blues, rock, jazz, and pop. The dynamic album features covers from The Chambers Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Muddy Waters, Marvin Gaye, and Leon Thomas, just to name a few. It also introduces a new song titled “I Remember” which is written and sung by Cindy Santana. Cindy also plays drums on the album.
The album was produced as an opportunity to spread hope, peace, and love to the world. The Isleys and Santana labeled the album as “medicine music,” because the world is very much affected by fear and lack of integrity.
“We came together like superheroes to rescue because it needs medicine to heal itself from separation and division,” said Santana. “We were honored to give people hope to believe that your life has meaning.”
I spoke with the iconic superstars at Electric Lady Studios about recording the album, respecting each other’s artistry, and so much more.
It’s an interview you wouldn’t mind reading!
Cindy Santana: This album for me was enlightening and exciting. You have musicians who are passionate about their crafts. You have two of the most incredible guitarists alive to ever touch the instrument. Ronnie is one incredible vocalist, his tone and sound lead the songs to a soulful and heartfelt place. We listened to the album as a spectator. When you listen, you gain a different perspective; it feels soulful, open, and good. It makes you feel like dancing, makes you feel happy, especially in these times. It will bring joy to many, and I’m proud to have been a part of this project.
Carlos has fifty iPads filled with all kinds of music from different eras. I would hear him play a song and he would say, “No, that’s the one” or “that’s the one!” He was selectively choosing the covers for all the albums. He was choosing the songs that would be great for Ronnie and Ernie. The proof is in the pudding because of the things he came up with; I think he brought out a great side in everyone. He sculpted it well.
Ron Isley: It was a dream come true for me. You have three guitar players; my favorite guitar player, Jimi Hendrix who was with us, The Isley Brothers in 1960. Then, this man, Santana, a dream come true. Santana is one of the greatest. His knowledge about music and songs is phenomenal. After talking to my brother, Cindy, and Santana, I’m like what’s going on? We’re singing the songs on one try, and it’s right. I’m like what’s going on? Santana said it’s a spirit; I’m just glad.
Ernie Isley: It’s a unique thing for two artists on different tracks within their own individual journey and careers. Santana and The Isleys’ careers have longevity. And for those two to come together, it’s one of the most spectacular things that was ever done. It makes the Power of Peace album more dynamic because it will be a part of The Isley Brothers and Santana legacy. It’s a marvelous thing. Music lovers will discover and rediscover this album for generations to come.
Ron Isley: From the very beginning in the studio with Santana, we did 13 songs in 4 days. In order for you to do that, you have to love what you do every day. I was in heaven singing those records. “God Bless the Child” was the last song we did and Santana called everyone and our wives to the studio to play the record. I said, “Man, that sounds wonderful, keep it going.” It turned out perfect!
Ernie Isley: First of all, when you’re making a record, you’re dealing with theory. It’s very abstract. For me, this album was a sense of discovery, a sense of something new. After listening to the playback, I discovered something brand new.
Carlos Santana: You have to honor and respect those who came before you. When it was my turn, I came in there with everything I had. I left the session respecting Ernie because I’m not afraid to bring my spirit into a situation. When you remember your thirst for adventure and your innocence, you can create wonders. Children are not afraid to try, they’re looking for adventure and uniqueness. The Power of Peace adventure is real, not wishy-washy.
Ernie Isley: I had a chance recently to play guitar in the same studio with Carlos Santana. I was grinning so hard. I saw the person that I listened to in the same room as me, and he’s playing. He’s in the zone and stops and points at me to play. When I play, he’s grinning. Fun is an understatement. It was like two kids riding bikes and eating ice-cream at the same time. It was pure joy while recording. It was wonderful. I don’t have the words to describe, but it was fun, filled with happiness.
Cindy Santana: It was one flow. It sounded like one breath.
Carlos Santana: When I heard Jimi, I never heard anyone paint a surround sound with one note. His sound is important for you to understand. Jimi Hendrix is not a myth. Jimi’s spirit was felt; he’s smiling. We continued with his spirit to make the world a better place. It was a divine opportunity. He influenced so many musicians to think outside of the box.
Ernie Isley: Jimi Hendrix’s guitar did not have a wrong note. He was an amazing player that made a huge contribution to music.
Cindy Santana: I think the title says a lot, “Power of Peace.” There is a tremendous amount of power in love, peace, and harmony. The illusion is that greed, control, and corruption are more powerful. But that’s not power; it’s destruction and the opposite of being powerful. In the long run, it doesn’t build society or people. It tears them down. When we begin to understand that we are one and love everyone, it builds everything up. When we understand that, we are not going to have hunger, separation, homelessness, or anything else. If we don’t want that for ourselves, why would we want that for other people? If one person has a billion dollars and the other people doesn’t have anything, there’s no balance. It must be balanced. I am a believer that there is enough to take care all of the inhabits on this planet if we distribute everything properly. This record is the vehicle to help people recognize their wants and needs. They will also feel their own light. Once they feel their own light, they will see it in other people. Once you have accepted that idea, you start treating people differently. You will think differently and start acting differently.
Ron Isley: I hope it does the things that we are saying on the records. Power of Peace is something that can bring a smile on your face. I think it’s going to be something that finds its place for Santana and The Isleys.
Ernie Isley: Music is a universal source of communication. Carlos Santana reached a lot of people with his music. The Isley Brothers, we reached a lot of people with our longevity. If you’ve ever asked, “What would it be like if Carlos Santana and The Isley Brothers did a record together?” Well, all of a sudden, it’s here, so you’re going to attract all sorts of music fans. They are going to take the messages into consideration, messages in like “What the World Needs Now?” or “Mercy, Mercy Me.” The whole project is going to influence on millions of people. They will take it to heart.
Ron Isley: I saw Santana at a show in St. Louis, and he asked me to come on stage. I said, “What am I going to do?” And so, we started singing a few records. After that, we started talking about great songs. He gave me a CD, and it included those songs. We talked every day on the phone, and he became my friend. We talked about the album, and I said, “Do you think you have time to do the album?” We talked about the songs we wanted for the album. And when we got to the studio, it was unexplainable. I’ve been in the business since 1959 and recording this album was so much fun.
Carlos Santana: I saw the Isley Brothers in 1962. Before Michael Jackson or The Beatles, I was listening to Ron’s voice. The speakers were going boom, and I was like “Man, what is that?” It was like I was hearing church coming out of that jukebox. They were creating medicine music to heal the planet. When I hear Ron’s voice, it’s church! I heart Ray Charles or Mahalia Jackson. The Isley Brothers showed me that I, too, can achieve in music. It felt like I was witnessing a sound that was beyond earth. On earth, this third dimension was meshed with limitations, doubt, shame, blame, and the concept of sin. People live in the third dimension say they wish; people in the fifth dimension say they will. That’s a huge difference! You say you will because God gave me light and I can create miracles and blessings as well. It’s a miracle and a blessing to be a blessing. Spirituality is not religion. Ron sculptures notes; he has this hot spirit. Every time I spend time with the brothers, the admiration gets more intense. We get a first-class seat to observe the sculpturing of the music. Witnessing Ronnie grabbing a melody in front of you, it’s a blessing. For us, there is no division; we feel honored to be a part of this love offering to ourselves and the world. The world needs this CD everywhere so you can correct twisted minds from harming other people.
Ernie Isley: When I heard Santana’s music, I was in college, and it was in and out of the dorms. It was everywhere, and it was not the same song. Each song Santana did was instructional and was precisely put together. Santana’s music is one of a kind. It’s the kind of music that will never be deceased. Music is supposed to continue, and his will not stop. He harmonizes with music; there is one Carlos Santana, not the baseball player. He is a special musician.
Carlos Santana: I thought it was a compliment for brother Wyclef and myself. DJ Khaled and Rihanna are at the peak of their careers. The song is doing quite well, I believe. The song we created has light and to hear the song on the radio again; it brings joy and people are moving and groovin’. It opens the door for us to do it again in a different way. Cindy’s CD is around the corner, and people will be blown away after listening to these records. We are also doing another album with Rick Rubin. I want to call it Africa Speaks, The World Listens. With all trueness, 99.9 percent of music is black music, African music, and it’s what I love. And so with the opportunity, my frequency has grown and has taken off.
Ron Isley: There is somebody who is going to be great, and they will have to listen to somebody that is great. I feel we have come across that road and we can say, “We are one of the great ones.”
Ernie Isley: Kendrick Lamar is at the top of the game, and one of the things that allowed him to get this far in his career is a sample. Not too long ago he sampled “That Lady,” and anybody who really likes good music would listen to our records. No one knows what’s going to be released when the records are sampled. We didn’t know when we did “Between The Sheets,” it will come back as “I love it when you call me Big Poppa.”
Ron Isley: First, get in touch with God. You must do that before you do anything else. When it comes to this album, we were in touch with God. We did the singing, but we’re asking Him can He make it great? What’s going to happen to the music once it’s done, once it’s released?
Ernie Isley: That answers the question. Your steps can be directed by the Lord. Everyone has a different compass, but ask Him to guide your steps.
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