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Santana The Woodstock Experience (2009)

MI0000891922From musicbox-online.com

When half a million people clogged the highways, back roads, and surrounding communities of upstate New York in order to descend upon Max Yasgur’s farm in August 1969, the commercial aspects of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival became forever overshadowed by the counterculture’s tilt toward mainstream acceptance. In fact, the event has received so much hype over the years that the public’s memory of what was supposed to take place has become somewhat skewed.

For the past four decades, consumers have been faced with a seemingly never-ending stream of products, services, and concerts bearing the Woodstock logo. Yet, even these attempts at leveraging a brand name in order to recapture the lucrative possibilities that were lost amidst the rain and mud have done little to diminish the misguided perception that Woodstock was meant to be an idyllic vision of paradise. In truth, Woodstock was, first and foremost, a massive outdoor gathering that was designed not only to make a lot of money for its promoters but also to showcase new albums from veteran acts as well as an assortment of promising, up-and-coming artists.

Santana’s popularity was virtually nonexistent when the group took the stage at Woodstock. Formed in San Francisco in 1966, the band quickly became a mainstay at Bill Graham-run events in the Bay Area. Outside the region, however, Santana had yet to find an audience. A marketing campaign was devised to raise the ensemble’s national profile prior to the release of its self-titled debut. In effect, its appearance at Woodstock was the first stage of this plan.

The gambit worked, too, perhaps better than anyone had anticipated. Right from the start, Santana was a well honed and vibrant live act. Over the course of its career, Santana consistently has fared better on stage than it has in the studio. From beginning to end, its debut was remarkably strong, and it spawned a pair of hit singles with Jingo and Evil Ways. Yet, the effort still paled in comparison to the ensemble’s concert performances.

At Woodstock, Santana wisely treated the massive crowd to a slate of songs that highlighted the full breadth of its stylistic range. The muscular blues groove of You Just Don’t Care was situated next to the pop-imbued beat ofEvil Ways, and the thrashing, hard-charging Persuasion brushed against the seductive tribal rhythms of Jingo. The highlight, of course, remains Soul Sacrifice, a scorching instrumental number that suitably punctuated the ensemble’s brief eight-song set and left a lasting impression upon those in attendance.

In truth, there’s really only one difference between the studio tracks and the concert fare featured on Santana: The Woodstock Experience. Although both sets of material follow the same basic blueprint, the latter selections are edgier and more intense. Lined with the shimmering, soul-inflected sound of an organ, the furiously percolating rhythms and screaming guitar solos join together in a relentlessly compulsive dance of spiritual bliss. Santana: Legacy Edition offers a more complete portrait of the making of Santana’s eponymous endeavor, but the concision of Santana: The Woodstock Experience contains all of the important highlights from the era.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Santana The Woodstock Experience | | Leave a comment

Santana The Woodstock Experience (2009)

MI0000891922From blogcritics.org

The first time you see a performer or a group in action goes a long way towards forming your opinion of them and their work, no matter what you see and hear of them anytime after. Well, that’s the case with me anyway. Whether its fair or not, if they suck the first time I see them it’s going to take a whale of a performance in the future for me to change my opinion of their music. That first exposure will have made an indelible impression on my memory banks, and somewhere in the back of my mind I’ll always carry the awareness of that lousy gig and be waiting for them to repeat it. Than again, if they are magnificent the first time, it will take a lot for me to give up on them.

The first time I saw Santana in action was also the first time I saw the movie Woodstock. It looked like Santana was the first group to go on after the infamous rain storm which had turned Yasgur’s farm into a mud bath. In the movie the crowd had started to do their own percussion thing to entertain themselves with people playing on everything from fence posts to beer bottles in order to participate. After a couple minutes of that the movie segued into Carlos and the boys playing “Soul Sacrifice”. While I had heard them play the same song on the soundtrack, actually seeing them perform it was completely different experience.

Although both the movie and its soundtrack only have Santana playing the one song, like everyone else who played “The Woodstock Music & Art Festival” they played between forty-five minutes and an hour. Now, for the first time, the whole set Santana played Saturday, August 16,1969 has been released on one recording as part of Legacy Recordings’ Santana: The Woodstock Experience. The two CD package also contains a copy of the group’s 1969 release, the self-titled Santana, their first recording, and a poster of the group performing at the Woodstock festival.

I have to assume the eight tracks on the Woodstock disc represent the entire set performed by Santana that afternoon after the rainstorm, and the order they appear in on the CD match the original performance order, as it doesn’t say different anywhere on the packaging. There’s two reasons that’s important to me. One, it means they basically performed, with the addition of “Fried Neck Bones And Some Home Fries” and the subtraction of “Shades Of Time” and “Treat”, their album for the concert. Two, “Soul Sacrifice” hadn’t followed directly after the audience’s spontaneous percussion performance as the movie implies, as it was the second last song in their set. What happened on screen was the result of creative editing on the part of the film makers, not some shared experience between audience and performers.

While that was a little disappointing to discover, it did nothing to diminish the electricity of the band’s overall performance on the live recording. For not only was “Soul Sacrafice” as good and exciting as it was the first time I heard it in the movie theatre all those years ago, now that it was placed in its proper context as being part of the band’s overall set, it somehow became even more exciting. Santana is one of those bands whose performances are a cumulative thing, with each song building on the momentum and energy created by the one preceding. Like a rising tide the music builds in its intensity until it finally reaches its high water mark leaving the audience feeling like they’ve experienced something equivalent to a force of nature.

It’s not often you have the opportunity to listen to a band doing studio versions and then live version of pretty much the same songs on the same release. This is especially interesting when dealing with a band like Santana where everybody from Carlos Santana on lead guitar, the conga and percussion players Mike Carabello and Jose Chepito Areas, drummer Mike Shrieve, bass player Dave Brown, to Gregg Rolie on keyboards (which in those days meant piano and organ) are such gifted musicians they can play extended solos on their respective instruments that are miniature performances unto themselves. The embellishments they each add to a song during a live performance aren’t just gilding, they almost take it to a new dimension as they push the material as far as it can go without becoming self indulgent.

Something you have to realize listening to these two discs, especially the live one, is that in 1969 the type of music Santana was playing was something most people hadn’t heard before. While today bands like Los Lobos and others have made the mixture of Spanish music, blues, and rock and roll well known, it was Carlos Santana and his band who first popularized it, and it was this concert that started it all. Before they had played Woodstock Santana hadn’t been known outside of the San Francisco Bay area and this concert brought their sound east for the first time.

Mike Shrieve’s drum solo in “Soul Sacrifice” is now one of those seminal moments in rock and roll history for the impact it had on the audience that day. Michael Lang, co-producer of the Woodstock festival recalls, according to the liner notes, it was that solo that captivated the audience and completed the job of winning them over. While they may have missed some of the subtler nuances of the performance simply because of the size of the audience and the primitive sound system, Shrieve’s drumming wasn’t something that anybody could miss. While normally I find there’s nothing more boring than a rock and roll drum solo, and am ever so grateful that they are now mostly gone the way of the dinasour, the solo he uncorked that concert was like the best of jazz drumming, but tinged with the wild abandon of rock and roll.

While that was a little disappointing to discover, it did nothing to diminish the electricity of the band’s overall performance on the live recording. For not only was “Soul Sacrafice” as good and exciting as it was the first time I heard it in the movie theatre all those years ago, now that it was placed in its proper context as being part of the band’s overall set, it somehow became even more exciting. Santana is one of those bands whose performances are a cumulative thing, with each song building on the momentum and energy created by the one preceding. Like a rising tide the music builds in its intensity until it finally reaches its high water mark leaving the audience feeling like they’ve experienced something equivalent to a force of nature.

It’s not often you have the opportunity to listen to a band doing studio versions and then live version of pretty much the same songs on the same release. This is especially interesting when dealing with a band like Santana where everybody from Carlos Santana on lead guitar, the conga and percussion players Mike Carabello and Jose Chepito Areas, drummer Mike Shrieve, bass player Dave Brown, to Gregg Rolie on keyboards (which in those days meant piano and organ) are such gifted musicians they can play extended solos on their respective instruments that are miniature performances unto themselves. The embellishments they each add to a song during a live performance aren’t just gilding, they almost take it to a new dimension as they push the material as far as it can go without becoming self indulgent.

Something you have to realize listening to these two discs, especially the live one, is that in 1969 the type of music Santana was playing was something most people hadn’t heard before. While today bands like Los Lobos and others have made the mixture of Spanish music, blues, and rock and roll well known, it was Carlos Santana and his band who first popularized it, and it was this concert that started it all. Before they had played Woodstock Santana hadn’t been known outside of the San Francisco Bay area and this concert brought their sound east for the first time.

Mike Shrieve’s drum solo in “Soul Sacrifice” is now one of those seminal moments in rock and roll history for the impact it had on the audience that day. Michael Lang, co-producer of the Woodstock festival recalls, according to the liner notes, it was that solo that captivated the audience and completed the job of winning them over. While they may have missed some of the subtler nuances of the performance simply because of the size of the audience and the primitive sound system, Shrieve’s drumming wasn’t something that anybody could miss. While normally I find there’s nothing more boring than a rock and roll drum solo, and am ever so grateful that they are now mostly gone the way of the dinasour, the solo he uncorked that concert was like the best of jazz drumming, but tinged with the wild abandon of rock and roll.

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Santana The Woodstock Experience | | Leave a comment