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Santana Caravanserai (1972)


Santana really jumped the shark with this “Caravanserai”, a jazz fusion landmark, which is more like Tangerine Dream’s atmospherics in places, than the customary blasting lead guitar jamming Santana fans may have become accustomed to. The sun soaked atmospheres emblazoned on the cover really highlight the mood of the album. The tribal percussion punches are a main feature, pounding throughout and even inundating the sound with Africana relish, such as on Future Primitive.

Then there are Arabian flourishes that may conjure images of a lone desert scape with a camel making its way across arid sandy mirages.
We hear the desert scape with nature’s sounds in Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation, and then the low hum of the sun’s rays with fluttering flute, until the chimes glisten over cooling down the heat, with swells of keyboard echoes. All the Love in the Universe is a spiritual journey that moves inexorably to a climax, along a bass pulse, finally breaking into a song and then an insane instrumental break with Carlos lead and Gregg Rolie’s Hammond battling for supremacy.

The music flows along organically in the first half with not too many breaks from one track to the next and encapsulates the power of desert ambience. It is a soulful, at times moving journey, and always completely challenging musically. Santana never returned to this style again so it remains a solitude wilderness album, a desert island album literally pulsating with energy. When the guitar is to be heard it comes in a flurry of power at the hands of mighty Carlos such as on Stone Flower, with Rolie’s Hammond shimmers and vocals that echo in the distance.

La Fuente Del Ritmo continues the quest to find the oasis, the water of life, with chaotic piano and cymbal splashes, and the congas and bongos are never far around the corner. The groove locks into frenetic tempo as the lightning fast hands on the congas attack. Carlos’ lead work is exceptional, enigmatic over the arousing African beats. The improvisatory piano runs are competing against the manic tom toms, and then the Hammond blasts return like rain falling into the oasis.

It all leads ultimately to a 9 minute extravaganza ‘Every Step Of The Way’, opening with gentle percussion, with Hammond answers, and the threat of a cascading guitar phrase. As far as jazz fusion goes this really hits the target. Santana take their time getting to the meat, and taking great pains to build up to a crescendo.

This is a tense experience at times, and at three minutes it finally breaks into a downpour of grooving bass and drums as lead guitar swoops like a hungry vulture. Once the vulture is airborn everything melts into the sunshine of the soundscape. The sound of a bird twittering floats overhead and then flutters down into swathes of keyboards and a wonderful brass sound that builds to a climax.

“Caravanserai” is sheer musical poetry and one of Santana’s triumphs; certainly one of their most famous albums and will continue to challenge and move listeners for decades to come; a timeless treasure.

April 2, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)


Guitarist Carlos Santana and his band sound like they took a good dose of Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra and the like before making this classic album, a tasty mix of jazz fusion, psychedelia and Latin rhythms and melodies. The sequence comprising the first half is a whirling journey through contemporary jazz-rock, each short track offering a different view of the field.

Touristy and experimental it may be, but it shows that the strength of the rock heritage of fusion is in its conciseness, and it’s recommended if you find the likes of “Bitches Brew” too sprawling.

It begins with subtlety, gradually emerging from a desert haze to slow gloopy harmonies in the style of Miles Davis’s “In A Silent Way”. The second “movement” “Waves Within” cements the album’s jazz foundation even more firmly.

It introduces one of the album’s stars, drummer Mike Shrieve, thumping out an exhilarating rhythm to carry Santana’s crisp guitar flourishes. Dirty wah-wahs on “Look Up” then land us in the realms of funk. Which curiously was the direction Miles Davis was taking around the same time…

When the first actual song “Just in Time to See the Sun” arrives, I see why they did well to stick to instrumentals on this album. The songs are easy-going jazz pop in the manner of Canterbury prog (Caravan et al.), but the wispy and flat vocals, here and elsewhere, are the only thing to let the album down. So it’s a great relief when the climax of the sequence, “Song of the Wind”, arrives.

This must be the place to go to hear Santana’s renowned guitar, delivering a sequence of effortless, supremely lyrical bluesy solos. It’s heading towards symphonic prog rock in its scale.

The tunes of the songs themselves aren’t weak, and the pick of these is “All the Love in the Universe”. Here, yet again, they sweep away the relatively wet singing with a dazzling instrumental, propelled by a breathlessly sputtering bass line. This introduces the album’s darker second half, which enters a hazy psychedelic world with “Future Primitive”, a tentacled percussion workout for conguero Mingo Lewis and timbalero Jose Areas (the album’s cover notes taught me two new words!).

The most Latin of the songs, “Stone Flower” and another hyperactive instrumental “La Fuente Del Ritmo” keep the energy up before the massive finale “Every Step of the Way”. After teasing us with some Bitches Brew-fashion slow brooding in the first three minutes, they suddenly kick up the tempo and pull everyone together for a no-holds-barred conclusion.

Including yet another new flavouring in a band arrangement in the style of Gil Evans (the orchestrator for Miles Davis’s “Porgy and Bess” and others). And a psycho-eyed flautist doing inhuman things to his instrument.

Highly recommended, especially to prog lovers wondering what that jazz fusion thing is all about.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)


Recorded in 1972, Santana’s landmark Caravanserai marks the legendary guitarist’s foray into the jazzier, more adventurous territory that would define his career for the better part of the next two decades. Drawing from Miles Davis’ pioneering period work, Santana ups the musical complexity, ditching vocals on most tracks and embracing moodiness as a form of expression.

Despite its sharp move away from conventional structures, Caravanserai reached the Top 10 of the Billboard charts and attained lavish critical acclaim.

Re-mastered from the original analog master tapes, Caravanserai benefits from Mobile Fidelity’s meticulous engineering, with the windows on the sparse production and the discernible live feel opening up on hybrid SACD with palpable transparency and exquisite detail.

Brimming with atmospheric textures, three-dimensional spaciousness, and freshly uncovered microdynamics, this version follows on the heels of Mobile Fidelity’s definitive, critically acclaimed editions of Santana, Abraxas, and Love Devotion Surrender.

The last Santana effort to feature guitarist Neil Schon and organist Greg Rollie, who would leave and form Journey, Caravanserai also welcomed the arrival of keyboardist/composer Tom Coster, whose impact is immediately felt. Displaying no hints of the discord that would cause the ensemble to splinter after the record’s release, the band seamlessly melds with Santana’s divine jaunts into instrumental nirvana.

And while prior releases spread the wealth, Santana’s role here is evidently clear from the start—this is where he’s elevated from a pioneering star to a guitar god. His guitar effortlessly darts amidst a rich aural canvas, knitted with contributions from a sextet of percussionists as well as Schon’s magisterial efforts.

With Santana, nothing is more important than soulfulness. And the profound spirituality and heartfelt expressiveness that pulse throughout the ten songs here are on par with the most personalized playing and music making he’s ever done. The highly original Caravanserai distinguishes itself from most instrumentally based albums in that its purpose isn’t to tout virtuosic jamming abilities but to take the listener places they’ve never been, and do so in a manner that’s cohesive, focused, and inventive.

Santana delves deeply into jazz’s boundless possibilities without exploiting technique or structure, arriving at sonic intersections where jazz is the main landing spot for soul, Latin, and funk tangents.

Whether it is the deep sound of a saxophone, polyrhythmic beat of a groove, or the intricate bend of Santana’s guitar string, every nuance and note of Caravanserai is heard with supreme detail and clarity on this numbered, limited-edition hybrid SACD.

We guarantee that you’ve never heard this record sound so lively, vivid, or monumental.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)

886978775023From The Guardian

Released in October 1972, `Caravanserai’ marks one of Santana’s highest and most sublime creative moments and has often been described as “music for musicians”. It’s the last of Santana’s studio recordings to feature founder-member Gregg Rolie on keyboards and second-guitarist (the very young but virtuoso) Neal Schon, both of whom were shortly to depart to form `Journey.’ Rolie features on some tracks and new keyboard player Tom Coster appears on others, the start of a decades-long and highly productive association between Coster and Santana.

Founder-member David Brown is replaced on bass by Doug Rauch (on some of the numbers) and Tom Rutley (on others) and the departure of Mike Carabello as conga-percussionist heralded the entry of veteran Armando Peraza – who, I can tell you from seeing this band live in 1973, had one heck of an onstage presence and added a lot to the sound. Drummer Mike Shrieve and percussionist `Chepito’ are still there, both evident in the music.

Altogether `Caravanserai’ showcases contributions by some 16 different musicians and is a masterpiece of arrangement and production; it marks the beginning of a rich and productive journey into deeper, more complex jazz-fusion territory which continued with `Welcome’ and – especially – `Borboletta.’

The trademark rock-salsa fusion sound which made Santana’s first three studio albums a global commercial success gives way here to more thoughtful, jazz-like compositions, though you can hear the genealogy of the Woodstock-era band still there underneath. Of the 10 numbers on the album, only three have any vocal content and the first six pieces (i.e. the first `side’ of the original vinyl LP) flow together as one, with no real breaks.

`Caravanserai’ though impressive on first listening, is not such an instantly-accessible musical listening experience as the first three albums. The band experiments with different time-signatures and instrumentation in complex compositions to weave an engrossing musical tapestry which wins over the head, the heart and the soul where repeat-listening reveals ever more depth and subtlety.

If you like to seek out great music of any era and especially if you have a penchant for jazz-rock fusion and you’ve never heard `Caravanserai’, then you’re in for a rare treat. This mid-1970s period was the high-point of Carlos Santana’s long creative career: here he is in his prime, a master of his craft with experience and global success behind him, but wanting to explore music a bit deeper, maybe with less popular appeal but ultimately more personally satisfying, more valuable and enduring. Put on the headphones, lie back, crank up the volume and be transported to a land rich, beautiful and sublime.

I am BTW writing this in Hatta, close to the UAE/Oman border. As the Sun rises, a herd of wild camels is visible on a distant hill to the South: a real-life spectacle almost identical to the original cover-art of this: Santana’s great, timeless fourth album.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)


After reshuffling their lineup somewhat, Santana entered a new phase. Fully embracing the “fusion” movement first spearheaded by Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, this album has a cleaner sound and pursues a more spiritual, jazz-based direction.

Of course, the Latin percussion and Rollie’s moody keyboards are still important, but Carlos dominates the action more than ever before. This is a good thing, for he’s in spectacular form throughout, though the extensive soloing and unwavering intensity of the album can be a bit draining after awhile. Caravanserai is comprised primarily of instrumentals, and songs segue into one another, making it essential to listen to in one sitting.

This was a bold, uncommercial step for the band to take in 1972, and though perhaps the album’s lack of potential hit singles hurt the band commercially, Caravanserai has proved to be an unjustly overlooked minor classic that Santana connoisseurs generally consider to be among his best. Surprisingly, though the album is more reliant on individual soloing than in the past, where the band relied more on explosive ensemble playing, Caravanserai is nevertheless one of Santana’s most rocking albums.

That said, it gets off to a low-key start with “Eternal Caravan Of Reincarnation,” a jazzy mood setter that leads into “Waves Within,” one of several songs that features fantastic fret work from Carlos, again prodded along by Neal Schon. Again, a seamless transition is made into “Look Up (To See What’s Coming Down),” a funky number notable for its wah wah guitar and a standout drum solo from the underrated Michael Shrieve.

“Just In Time To See The Sun” has a hot, simmering groove going for it along with more great guitar, but it is the next two (long) songs, “Song Of The Wind” and “All the Love Of The Universe,” that form the heart of the album. Each is very melodic and includes incredible jamming, but the next three songs are less impressive, though “Future Primitive” does provide a necessary, less substantial break from the unwavering intensity.

“Stone Flower” has more of a pop flavor, though they still find time to jam, while Shrieve is again a standout on “La Fuente del Ritmo” before “Every Step of the Way” finishes the album with a flourish. An at-times jaw droppingly impressive 9+ minute epic, it ends another essential Santana album, arguably the band’s last studio creation that could be labeled as such.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)


Before absorbing the near-unanimous acclaim earned over the years by Santana’s 1972 studio masterpiece, the band had meant little more to me than a ubiquitous presence on the AM radio dial in my high school days during the 1970s. Many decades down the road, I will now officially and in a public forum kick myself in the rump for ignoring too long a superlative musical experience. Older and wiser, so forth and so on…

Jazz-Rock Fusion was of course the hot buzzword in the early ’70s, as spearheaded by such pioneering groups like Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return To Forever, all formed (and not coincidentally) by alumni of the Miles Davis “Bitches Brew” sessions (and likewise all bands that flew beneath my own shortsighted radar at the time).

Carlos Santana never played alongside the legendary jazz trumpeter, but he was certainly a fan. And his eponymous band brought something new and unique to the freshly-set Fusion banquet: a strong sense of Latin rhythm and rock ‘n’ roll intensity, together reaching its highest combined level of expression on the band’s fourth studio effort. From the evocative simplicity of the Near-Eastern cover art to the long, unresolved fade-out of the last, furious jam (with discreet orchestral accompaniment) during “Every Step of the Way”, this is a near perfect recording, and a timeless reminder of what music is meant to be.

It’s also the one Santana album rarely acknowledged in any of the band’s numerous greatest-hit packages and best-of compilations. And for good reason: even with the occasional vocals it still plays like an organic, entirely instrumental concept album, and the songs (to their credit) all lack the top-40 radio airplay appeal of hits like “Evil Ways” and “Black Magic Woman”.

In other words, it’s an album aiming at something higher than simple commercial success. Don’t expect to hear any singing at all until well after the twelve-minute mark, and then just a brief interlude (during “Just In Time To See the Sun”) before the more assured salsa-rock fusion of “Song of the Wind”, featuring some of Santana’s most relaxed yet ecstatic soloing (on an album already overflowing with uncomplicated musical joy).

The entire effort glows with the same, pervasive mood of unforced optimism. Check out some of the track titles (“All the Love in the Universe”: hardly a jukebox-friendly moniker). Note too the relaxed, atonal saxophone intro and near-subliminal layering of acoustic bass and percussive allsorts in “Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation”, so reminiscent, at least to this aging Crimhead, of the chorus to “Formentera Lady”, from the King Crimson album “Islands”, released one year earlier.

Strictly speaking, this album shouldn’t even be considered Jazz, or Rock, or Jazz-Rock. Like the fusions of MILES DAVIS at the time, it resists any easy-fit categorizing, and ought to be heard as nothing more or less than Music, purely and (not always so) simply.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)


This strikes me as tons more interesting than any of Santana’s two earlier records (not to mention later ones) and even more engaging than Santana III – I’d go as far, indeed, as to call this Santana’s masterpiece, and the most wonderful and convincing emotional tour-de-force you’ll ever get out of this band. Granted, its commercial life was rather short, and it marked the beginning of the band’s drastic decline in sales, although they didn’t really begin to flop until a couple years later.

But this has to do not with a drop in quality, but rather with a radical change of direction. Basically, at this point Carlos had enough of being a Latin hit supplier for the dance-ready public and decided to get more experimental, artsy and complex. And it was a brilliant move: Carlos’ talents as guitar player fully allowed him to sound ‘artsy’ without getting way too overblown, while the backing band was at least skillful enough to, well, serve as good backing band.

This is actually the second point for which I like the record: it not only brings Carlos into the spotlight, continuing the trend of III, but also makes an obvious emphasis on his guitar playing instead of Rolie’s pointless organ noodling or instead of the band’s jamming power in general. On Caravanserai, you are going to find some of the most wonderfully crafted, amazingly well-performed lead guitar work ever put on any album, and when I first heard Santana stretch out on these instrumentals I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell he was doing all this time.

Not that the backing band is completely defunct, of course – there are some organ solos here, and it’s not that the record is just a showcase for Carlos; but they are able to find a perfect balance between the axeman and the sidemen, where the latter never overshadow the former, and the former allows the latter to be clearly audible and add some more ‘feeling’ to the whole experience.

The album is in some way a concept one, like a hippiesque journey through your subconscious and the ‘cosmic mind’, and all that crap, and it comes off far better than, well, some Yes albums I could mention. The songs all flow into each other with no breaks, which doesn’t exactly make for an easy listen, but I already warned you – it’s one artsy album. Nevertheless, the first five or six numbers are all masterpieces.

What a better way to kick off a record than with ‘Eternal Caravan Of Reincarnation’, for instance? With its chirping of crickets, vague echoey organ notes, and background atmospheric noises, it sets a perfect scene for the ensuing performances – a feeling of night, dense, but not terrifying, darkness, and stately majesty of the Cosmic Powers (heh). And then…

…then in comes the guitar, and the real fun starts. ‘Waves Within’ is a breathtaking number, with a beautiful organ background and Carlos literally soaring up unto the edge of the sky; at times he plays such amazing, lightning-speed, emotional flurrys of notes that… heck, just listen to the guitarwork at the beginning of the third minute. It sounds like he’s taking an enormous leap into the sky, halts there for a moment to contemplate the heavenly beauty, and then leaps down again. Literally so. Then ‘Look Up (To See What’s Coming Down)’ takes us into more realistic territory with a strong funky workout (magnificent wah-wah rhythm work throughout), the short ‘vocal interlude’ ‘Just In Time To See The Sun’ serves as a moody breather in between the epics, and ‘Song Of The Wind’ is pure ecstasy.

A six-minute-long musical paradise with Carlos as its only angel – for my money, this could be the best instrumental he ever recorded, at least, the best instrumental that features him and not the entire band (which leaves out ‘Soul Sacrifice’ as the best band instrumental). That guitar tone is impossible to describe; I’m pretty sure Clapton spent ages learning something from the dude, as he’s the only European guitar guy I know to have achieved similar levels of spirituality. Finally, ‘All The Love Of The Universe’ sounds pretty hippiesque, too, and somewhat dated on release, but is again completely redeemed by stunning lead work.

Unfortunately, the second side is a slight letdown – all of a sudden, Carlos seems to have remembered that he is a popular hero, after all, and includes some generic stuff like ‘La Fuente Del Ritmo’ that is probably a blessing for fans of his older style but is definitely not so for me. Likewise, I don’t see what’s so spectacular about the band’s version of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Stone Flower’; it takes me ages to guess the melody, and the vocals are so low-key and inaudible that they actually spoil the picture – maybe the tune would be better off as an instrumental.

Yet once again, there is good lead work throughout, and the big spiritual breakthrough occurs with the lengthy suite ‘Every Step Of The Way’ that closes the album – a moody, complex workout that goes through lots of stages and different atmospheres (starts off real dark, but ends in an uplifting, cathartic passage with some strings cleverly woven into Santana’s leads).

Yeah, Caravanserai couldn’t have hoped to compete with the ‘progressive mainstream’ of the era – the overall hippiesque concept was far too lightweight, the musicianship too ‘unprogressive’, and the songs were too short, but in retrospect it easily beats some of the better progressive albums of its era.

This is a piece of undeniable beauty, and a relatively accessible and understandable beauty as well; I have no problem trying to identify with this stuff.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)

The following review is obviously also a review for a Miles Davis album but isn’t mentioned in the reviews title!

SANTANAsantana-caravanserai-frontFrom Rolling Stone

The Street’s the same in New York or Frisco. It leads to heaven or hell, maybe both, and what comes down around you depends on how you travel just as much as where you’re coming from.

In that sense, Miles Davis from St. Louis by way of jazz and Carlos Santana from San Francisco by way of rock have a great deal more in common than either may realize. These are philosophical albums, if one may be permitted to apply that adjective to musical composition and performance. Both albums express a view of life as well as a way of life through the construction of sounds, some improvised and some deliberate and pre-considered. We may never know (and I am not sure it makes a difference) which sounds are which. All that really matters is the music itself.

Miles is a magician. When almost all of his contemporaries not only dismissed rock but R&B as somehow beneath their notice (for which read rival for geetz and gigs), Miles bought Sly Stone records and went to hear Jimi Hendrix. Anybody who doubts this doesn’t have to ask Miles. He tells you all about it in his music. It’s hard to be bar-by-bar specific about this, but the mood, the coloration, the sound, the particular rhythms juxtaposed against other rhythms from time to time evoke an immediate flash of Sly, as does the low, growling sound (which I suppose must come from one of the arcane rhythmic instruments Miles employs). When the latter appears, it sounds for one brief second (if you’re away from the speaker or the volume is turned down a bit) just like the way Sly’s voice sounds on “Spaced Cowboy.”

Miles’ album plays through almost without a pause even though the tracks are separated by bands. The groove runs quickly across the band or else the music continues into and out of it, I simply can’t tell. In any case, the music is laid out there for you as an integral whole, not a series of individual compositions arbitrarily selected and juxtaposed. They fit, like the movement of a long, planned work, and Miles plays them in this manner as well.

Throughout the album, there is extensive use of a variety of rhythmic sounds. Shakers, claves, cowbells, weird and exotic drums, wetted thumbs drawn across tight-skin drumheads, anything traditional or invented which could make a sound that seemed to Miles to fit. Electronics include keyboards, guitar and a device on Miles’ horn. Despite the fact that the sound of Miles’ trumpet is heard less on this album than perhaps on any of his others, the totality of the music is possibly under even greater control. He wrote all the compositions and, I believe, personally edited and overdubbed or whatever else was done in the studio to produce the multiplex recording in which polyrhythms play such an important part.

In spite of the separation into tracks and the titling of them, I am inclined to think that one will not play excerpts from this album unless Columbia slices a single out of it (which could be the final track, “Mr. Freedom X”) because the music goes so well as a whole story. It is so lyrical and rhythmic. Miles’ own horn, as well as the soprano saxophone of Carlos Garnett, produces loving sounds. But the impact of the whole is greater than the sum of any part.

It is music of the streets, as I said, and as such it has the throb of the street as well as the beauty of a rose in Spanish Harlem. It is music which celebrates street life as well as the beauty of life itself, and it brings together (and celebrates the individual beauty of the rhythms of) many different cultures. Even the guitar sounds of David Creamer and the keyboards of Herbie Hancock and Harold I. Williams are utilized in the creation of a lyric feeling and lyric sound without laying them out in linear fashion. This music is more about feelings than notes, as Donald Ayler once remarked.

The use of the amplified sitar (Colin Wolcott) and the variety of rhythm sounds from James Mtume, Badal Roy (tabla), Billy Hart and Jack deJohnnette is magnificent. Mike Henderson’s bass turns out time after time to be responsible for some of the most elusive sounds on the record. This is music to live with in a variety of moods and circumstances and in listening to it, what comes back depends on the mood and the circumstance as well as on the degree to which the listener is able to open up and hear without a priori conception or assumption.

It is easy to segue from Miles to Santana or vice versa. Caravanserai, while it is different from all of Santana’s previous work, still has enough of the Santana original sound to provide familiarity. Carlos himself has as individual a sound on guitar as Miles does on trumpet and you hear him singing away on his strings on and off throughout the LP.

But this time, instead of the hard-edged, almost frenetic stomp of the previous Santana, there is much more emphasis on the romantic, lyrical and celebration-evoking sound; but the Latin excitement is still there. I think Santana is reaching for a spiritual feeling throughout. This feeling is implicit in jazz, though sometimes disguised, but jazz is always positive: To swing is to affirm, as Father Kennard, S.J., once said. Santana affirms herein and speaks directly to the universality of man, both in the sound of the music and in the vocals. The hard, street-edged sound comes in when Armando Peraza (along with Mongo Santamaria, the greatest living Cuban bongo and conga drummer, at least living in this country) appears on, appropriately, “La Fuente del Ritmo,” and, to a lesser degree, on “Stoneflower,” the Jobim song.

Horns appear only in Hadley Caliman’s opening statement and briefly in the back of the last song, “Every Step of the Way.” There are no purely Eastern instruments such as tablas or sitars, but the sustained sound and the singing feeling is similar. “Song of the Wind” is, as of this writing, the one which is getting played on the air because of its magnificently soaring lyric line. But the whole album deserves the same kind of attention. To put down, as some critics have, Carlos’ conception and sound is to define beauty from a very narrow view: Carlos need never play another note to rank as one of the most satisfyingly beautiful players of his instrument for his work on this album alone.

On almost every track, Jose Chepito Areas plays timbales and blends the razor-edged percussive sound of the small single-head drum into the general rhythmic mix of the bigger ones and the bongos magnificently. The bulk of the conga drumming is from a fine percussionist, James Mingo Lewis, and Mike Shrieve not only aided in some of the composition of material for the album, but continues to demonstrate that he is gifted with a unique ability to fit the sounds from the standard trap drum set into Latin music without losing its individuality.

Both of these albums, incidentally, are produced in such a way as to derive maximum effect from stereo. They should be listened to on earphones for the best results. There you find your mind blown repeatedly by the sound traversing the speaker line from left to right and reverse for a very unusual effect. Repeatedly, Carlos lays out charming and moving melodic lines as the music swells and climaxes to swell again. Like the Miles LP, it can be played from start to finish and probably should be, because, again, it is a whole composition in performance, with the bands between the tracks almost irrelevant. On “El Fuente del Ritmo,” Tom Coster plays a magnificent electric piano solo with Armando coming on up and under him and evolving into furious ensemble rhythm. Neither Miles nor Carlos insists on dominating the album with his own playing. Carlos does not even appear on guitar on “Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation,” playing percussion instead. Gregg Rolie, the organist who wrote some of the music with Shrieve and Santana (Neal Schon, Lewis, Tom Rutley, Douglas Rauch, Jose Chepito Areas also were involved in the compositions of various tracks), performs consistently throughout bringing, along with Carlos’ guitar sound, a kind of consistent tone to the music.

I have been playing these LPs back to back for days now with increasing enjoyment. Try it. You’ll like it.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment