Classic Rock Review

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Santana Live At The Fillmore 1968


Review Six months before recording their great debut album and 21 years before his recent world wide sucess, Carlos Santana, Gregg Rolie and band played their hearts out for four nights at the Filmore West in December of 1968.
This album is not only a great Santana album but one of the great live albums of the 60’s. I often agree with the Amazon staff but their review here is way off. This CD contains 9 songs four of which would show up on the debut album and 5 were unreleased until now.

My favorite song on the CD is the totaly different version of “Treat” here than on the debut album. Gregg Rolie’s piano introduction is great. It is easy to forget how magical Carlos Santana and Rolie were togeather. Of the unreleased songs “Conquistadore Rides Again” is a highpoint. Great version of “Persuasion” too.

Amazing sound for a 60’s recording but Columbia Legacy always seems to do a great job. Forget the various live albums by The Doors, The Byrds, Joplin and the Airplane. This one ranks with Dylan live at The Royal Albert Hall, Hendrix and Redding at Monterey and the Stones at Madison Square Garden. That it was unreleased Until 1997 is all the more remarkable because most unreleased rock albums should stay that way. Enjoy!

Review Let’s start with the obvious. Michael Shrieve isn’t in the band yet, so the concert isn’t anything close to future Santana standards. However, this live album shows you how it all got started. This is the bare bones, the raw Santana. Santana had just signed on with Columbia Records when they played this concert. Obviously, the formula hasn’t been perfected yet, but this is the starting point, the beginning of what would be a future rock and roll phenomenon.

The first disc starts off strong with a long version of Jingo. Persuasion follows with a hard rock intro, pretty cool. Treat is beautifully played here, with Gregg Rolie pounding on the piano keys like there’s no tomorrow. All the other songs on this disc are great as well.

Disc two has a 14 minute Soul Sacrifice. It’s not anything close to the Woodstock version, but this one is good too, with a great organ solo by Gregg Rolie. As The Years Go By is a great blues song, and finishing things up is Freeway, a 30 minute jam that rocks hard all the way through.

You might be hesitant to get this album because it’s a Santana that is young, barely starting out. But the truth is, there’s no such thing as a bad Santana concert. Get Santana Live at the Fillmore 1968, it’s a great slice of time, with great music to have you jammin’ all night.

**If you want to hear THE Santana concert, pick up Santana III Legacy Edition. It contains the REAL band’s whole concert on the closing night of the Fillmore West in 1971. Great music with great musicianship. You can’t beat it.

Review When this 2-CD set was released, I jumped at the chance of having a pre-Woodstock recording of Santana. Unfortunately, far from the jubilation expressed from other reviewers, I found it to be a major disappointment. While the sound quality is excellent, and Carlos Santana and Gregg Rolie are in fine form, the backup sounded relatively bland to me. Being a percussionist myself, I must point the finger solely at Bob “Doc” Livingston, the drummer.

While it’s nice to have a documentation from his tenure with the band, and his playing is solid enough (with a decent version of “Jingo”), to me there was a “sameness” to his playing, relegating his role of time keeper rather than leading and propelling the band to higher places, which only started happenning after Michael Shrieve replaced Livingston. Listen to “Soul Sacrifice” (for one example). Just compare his playing to Shrieve’s from the Woodstock performance (which, frankly BLOWS AWAY this collection) and you’ll see what I mean. Every drummer that succeeded Shrieve carried on this tradition. To me this is a big reason why Santana is so successful (though definitely not the ONLY one). If Livingston continued with the band you would be looking at a very different Santana band indeed!

If you’re new to Santana, check out “The Best Of Santana” then get their first three CDs (Santana, Abraxas, and Santana III), and if you want their live stuff, really any other live Santana CD will do.

Three stars for Carlos’ and Gregg’s immense talent! Otherwise, there are MUCH better releases out there.

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Santana Live At The Fillmore 68 | | 2 Comments

Santana Live At The Fillmore 68


After their legendary performance at Woodstock in the late summer of 1969, and their blistering self titled debut album, Santana would skyrocket to much deserved stardom and cement a place in rock history. But here, in the warm sounding Fillmore West in December of 1968, we get a very young and hungry Santana trying to find their way. The results couldn’t be more spectacular.

The first thing that knocks me over about this set is the sound, which is absolutely superb. Rich and warm, the sound captured that night in the Fillmore West is immaculately recorded and the stereo separation between the instruments, the percussion in particular, is stunning. Any early Santana fan should thank the stars that someone, somewhere, had the good sense to hit the record button as this is going to be one fantastic night of music (it sounds especially nice in headphones).

First out of the gate is a pulsating version of “Jingo” that seems to contain even more liquid fire than the later studio version found on their debut album. You can hear the percussion trickle in as the bass picks up the back beat and lays a solid foundation for Carlos to soar in with his psychedelic leads. The band grooves along and swings nicely without a care in the world and the polite West coast crowd is highly appreciative.

“Jingo,” with its constant pulsing rhythm, really sets the tone for the rest of the set which focuses mostly on hypnotic grooves and almost meditative song structures. The songs are all stretched as far as they can go and the band gets deep into the cut whenever they can. This usually leads to some excellent percussion breaks with congas and bass throwing the stage afire amidst the swashing leads of organist and pianist Greg Rolie. The band’s ability to alter all perception of what music is supposed to be, especially back in 1968, is astounding.

Speaking of Rolie, he is on fire throughout and, as I mentioned in my review of Tanglewood 1970, he almost steals the entire show away from Carlos. Where some of Carlos’ solos sound restrained and somewhat safe, Rolie is completely unhinged, setting his Hammond B3 organ ablaze with a fury. Not that Carlos isn’t bringing some amazing leads to the table, he is, it’s just that whenever Rolie comes on my ears prick up and I find myself studying the playing just a little more. Of course I have been on a B3 kick lately. Special mention needs to be made here of both Rolie’s and Carlos’ spectacular performances on “Treat,” the two musicians locking together beautifully in the late night atmosphere of the jam.

One of the truly exciting things about hearing these ’68 sets are all the great early and rare gems the band throws out. Throughout the discs we are treated to rarities such as the always mysterious, late night jazz tinged “Fried Neckbones,” the San Francisco styled funk of “Chunk A Funk,” and the great instrumental “Conquistadore Rides Again,” where Rolie and Carlos again mesh musically as if they had been playing together for decades. There is also an early version of “Persuasion” that features a blistering intro played in the San Francisco acid rock style but with a nice touch of Santana styled flavor.

We are also treated to a very rare 30 minute version of “Freeway” which may just be the most hypnotic song on here full of long drum solos, bass solos, and any other solo you can think of (I will admit that the actual drum solo is a bit tame, but remember that spastic drummer Michael Shrieve, featured in the 1969 Woodstock performance of “Soul Sacrifice,” has yet to join the band). Still, it is one amazing performance by all with Carlos bringing some particularly fiery guitar leads into the mix throughout the duration of the jam.

Santana Live at the Fillmore ’68 has been a favorite of mine for years and is highly recommended for any Santana fan. I can also recommend it for any fan of percussion heavy music in general as it is wholly satisfying and far from the watered down Santana of later years. The hypnotic, mesmerizing grooves and pulsing rhythms are sure to keep anyone grooving along throughout the night and there is much to be found deep within the musical layers.

Highly recommended.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Santana Live At The Fillmore 68 | | Leave a comment