Classic Rock Review

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Santana Borbolleta (1974)


Welcome Vol. 2. I tell you, it’s really hard to get thrilled about all those mid-Seventies Santana releases if you’ve already had the possibility to enjoy the earlier ground breaking pieces like Santana III and Caravanserai. Neither Carlos nor the rest of the band members don’t offer us anything particularly new here, but there are no serious offenders either. You just get what you expected: a ramshackle collection of slightly Latin-tinged dance numbers, all seriously peppered with Carlos’ smashing leads and the band’s generic backing vocals. And stuff like that.

On the other hand, even the leads are starting to irritate me. Far too often, it sounds like Carlos is on cruise control, churning out exactly the same convoluted, twisted musical phrasing that was present on every second number on Lotus already. I mean, if earlier I thought of his unhuman arpeggios as heavenly rain, here, with all the obligatory eleven-minute workouts like ‘Promise Of A Fisherman’, I’m slowly starting to assimilate them to the sound of a really really powerful vacuum cleaner – wheez-wheez-wheez-wheez-wheez-wheez-WHEEZ… How many times may a genius repeat himself?

Inevitably, I turn to shorter tunes in search of some kind of consolation. Thank God, it works; some of the short poppier songs here are rather nice and unique in their own way, better than most of the vocalized numbers of Sixties’ Santana. I don’t know who’s singing on all of them (certainly not Carlos himself), but whoever it is, it’s nice. The best one of these is ‘One With The Sun’, a very moody and thought-provoking piece based on a marvelous melancholy lick from Carlos.

‘Give And Take’ introduces a rougher, heavier edge, reminding me a bit of the instrumental ‘Incident At Neshabur’, and transforms an otherwise completely peaceful and ‘spiritual’ album into something a wee bit more aggressive – for a while. And both ‘Life Is Anew’ and ‘Mirage’ are also proof-made ready minor Santana classics in the ‘spiritual direction’. Which reminds me: did I forget to tell you that Borboletta is actually a good album? Stale and stagnated, for sure, but still an excellent demonstration of the band’s spirituality.

It might even be a little better than Welcome, because the vocal numbers are more convincing and the shorter instrumentals more diverse. Actually, you can also think of Borboletta as a worthier sequel to the ‘mystical trip’ of Caravanserai than the weaker, tired Welcome. It’s just that where Caravanserai was a grandiose masterwork of sheer epic height and majesty, Borboletta is a far more homely and less menacing journey. May I use a metaphor? Thanks.

Earlier, you used to climb on the back of a camel and travel with the band towards the ‘aspiring sunset’, to witness pictures of heavenly beauty – huge oceans and impassable snow-covered peaks. Here, you seem to be mounting a giant butterfly and slowly and steadily driving through a sunny and lazy jungle with NO poisonous snakes at all. The wind does howl somewhat lamely and unconvincingly in the background (‘Spring Manifestations’), but doesn’t seem to be doing anything much. Meanwhile, the flowers are nonchalantly humming their song (‘Canto De Los Flores’), and life is good enough to distract yourself with something – you know, nothing like a good draw of healthy meditation along the way. Ahem. Pardon.

Anyway, I do realize that the subject presented above could have easily been applied to just about any proto-ambient or atmospheric light-jazz record ever made, with the sole exception that those records would not have been made by Santana. And it would take too deep an analysis and too much time to rip this music open even further and say why it is actually deserving more praise than all that stuff – I just don’t have the forces nor the wish to go into deep explanations of the production techniques of Borboletta and the playing credentials of the contemporary Santana band members.

Suffice it to say: if you’re ready to follow Devadip into his unlimited, endless spiritual journeys, this record is definitely for you. I, for one, think that he peaked with that on Caravanserai and would never really top that; but hey, if you’re not worried about originality, I can’t see why this couldn’t score a ready five stars. Easily!

April 14, 2013 - Posted by | Santana Borbolleta |

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