Carlos Santana was initially intimidated by Sony Music Chief Creative Officer Clive Davis' pitch for his next album -- another "Supernatural"-style all-star collaboration, but this time on a collection of iconic rock songs by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and others.
"I was like, 'No, I don't know if I want to do this one, Clive. This one's a little challenging,' " the guitarist and bandleader recalls to Billboard.com. "And he would stay on the phone for at least 45 minutes to an hour, three times in one year, and I was like, 'Oh, lord...' But then I started realizing that someone with that intense passion of commitment couldn't be wrong, so I had to trust him. And it was incredible."
The album -- Santana's first since "All That I Am" in 2005 -- is due out in September and is not yet titled. The track list is being finalized as well, but during sessions Santana reunited with "Smooth" partner Rob Thomas on Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" and worked with Joe Cocker on Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," Scott Weiland on the Rolling Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," Chris Daughtry on Def Leppard's "Photograph," Soundgarden's Chris Cornell on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," Papa Roach`s Jacoby Shaddix on Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" and Nas, who lays down rhymes on AC/DC's "Back in Black." Santana chose half of the songs while Davis picked the other half.
"What I brought to the table is my heart, knowing that I complement, I don't compete," Santana says of the recording sessions. "I brought my heart, trusting that there's enough in me of purity and innocence and genuineness that I couldn't possible, excuse the expression, fuck it up. I know Eric (Clapton). I know Jeff Beck. I know Jimmy Page. And they know me. I have supreme certainty and confidence that they're going to say, 'Hey man, I love what you did with my song."
While he considers ever song "incredible," Santana says his very favorite is the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," which he recorded with India.Arie and cellist Yo Yo Ma. He recalls that, "I sent the song to George Harrison's widow, Olivia, and I got back an email that says, 'Carlos, I listened to the song and I started crying and jumping with joy at the same time. And I want you to know that George really loved you, because he understood your passion for compassion.' And I was like, 'Bam!' that's like George Harrison himself, through his beautiful wife, validating my existence and what I did with that song."
Santana plans to preview some of the covers during his upcoming summer tour with Steve Winwood, which gets under way June 30 in Saint Paul, Minn. He also plans to have Winwood "join my band" for collaborations he hopes are "totally different" than what fans might expect.
"I would prefer not to do Steve Winwood or Santana songs with him," Santana explains. "I would like to go to the Bob Marley repertoire or Marvin Gaye or African music by King Sunny Ade or really, really obscure other-side-of-the-tracks where even black people are afraid to go music with him. So I'm crossing my fingers."
After the summer tour with Winwood, Santana is returning to Las Vegas in August for his second residency at the Hard Rock Hotel. Santana is touring Europe in Sept. and Oct., including a stop at London's O2 Arena.
Santana has another album ready to go as well, an all-instrumental set called "Shape Shifter" that he recorded with his band and he plans to release after the next album has run its course.