Classic Rock Review

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Santana Moonflower (1977)


Review Moonflower is mix of revisited older songs, some new material, and live tracks.

I listened to it first when I was 16 – when the cover “She’s Not There” was in the charts, and now, over 20 years later I still play it regularly. At the time though I was blown away by one particular track-the live rendition of Europa(Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile). You’ll find the original studio recording of Europa on the Amigos album; and a weak and flacid thing it is. Put it this way; I have a “Carlos Santana” guitar tablature book, featuring Europa, and after 6 months I’d managed to play the instrumental note-for-note, just in the same way as played on Amigo’s.

I can forget trying to play it the same way Carlos played in live. I don’t think it can be done, even by a top studio musician.

The live tracks, together with the revisited studio numbers take on a different hue altogether on Moonflower. Wait until the neighbours are out, turn the volume right up and…well, how can I describe it? Prepare to be amazed.

The first thing that hits you is the speed of the numbers – the tempo increases markedly for most of them; nice easy blues/latin tracks become out-and-out heavy rock epics. The second thing that gets you is Carlos’s guitar tone. It’s not the weedy, processed sound you get now (I do wish he had never met Paul Reed Smith!) but rather a deep, huge tone extracted from his Yamaha. The sound produced is huge, and glorious to listen to.

The third thing is the dynamics of Carlos’s playing. With the gain and volume up, feedback is readily available, and he uses it to sustain notes seemingly forever (Europa). Grace notes (and chords!) abound everywhere. He’s eager to solo, almost impatient for the superb Tom Costa to finish his bit. The other musicians contribute just as much – providing a confident base for Santana to go off on wild flights of solo melodies. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen is transformed into a powerful beast with pace and the melodies that the original recording just hinted-at. Let The Children play benefits from a huge increase in well, how can it be put? Joy. That’ll be the word.

Dance Sister Dance has one of the most infectious riffs your likely to hear. I’ll be Waiting has a platinum-pure solo. And Europa? Well, it’s just perfect. Scary (how could someone write and play something that good) hugely melodic, with a sonic landscape that is unforgettable. The contrast with the Amigos version is just ridiculous – the live version is the one to remember, packed full of sustain and feedback and pace – my God pace, with legato passages that are simply incredible.

There’s no other Santana album like Moonflower. It was the perfect combination of a superb band, great songs, both new and old, high production values and of course Carlos at his magical best. I can’t listen to his “recent” material, featuring guests of marketable value but questionable talent. 2005 will apparently see a “Latin-style” Santana album released amongst others. Although the fingers are slower, I’d love to see him ditch the PRS’s and wipe the dust off the old SG2000 and give his newer fans a brief insight into Santana music that could send shivers down your back.

Review If you’re looking for the one Santana album that encompasses all of his talents, this is it. If you’re not familiar with Santana, and are considering his music, this album is it. A collection of live cuts and studio tracks, this album was released right “Amigos”. It was released during a period when Carlos Santana was pursuing some serious spiritual pathways, and the music is the better for it.

The band for the live cuts was one tight group, and, in my opinon, the best collection of musicians Carlos (or Devadip Carlos, as he called himself at the time)has ever assembled. I can not offhand think of another Santana album where the band is so astonishingly enegetic and incredibly tight. The jazz/fusion influence of Tom Coster’s keyboard playing can be felt throughout.

For me, the tracks that particularly stand out are “Europa”, “Transcendance”, and “Soul Sacrifice”. The live version of Europa, with its increaed tempo and careful use of feedback, and the extended jamming near the end, is worth the price of the album. “Transcendance” is a studio cut with an exteded guitar jam that’s fast and sloppy notes here. The live “Soul Sacrifice” is the album’s tour de force, where no ounce of energy is spared. The guitar work is beyond description. The closing power chords rank right up there with the most powerful rock chords ever recorded. As reviewer GLM accurately states, this track will “test your speakers” and “make your ear wax fall out”. It’s tough to listen to this one and not feel pumped afterward, wondering what hit you.

The one drawback to this CD, and it’s a minor one, is that the tracks too frequently alternate between studio and stage. If played right through, the arrangement of the tracks can present too much of a mood change. You can easily overcome this by suitably programming your player. Also, the opening track, Dawn/Go Within, gets cut off way too early. Just as the groove is really picking up and Tom Coster is laying down some great piano chords, the song fades and segues into the live “Carnaval”.

This album says it all for Santana.

May 1, 2013 - Posted by | Santana Moonflower |

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