Classic Rock Review

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Soul Sacrifice: The Santana Story by Simon Leng (2000)


Review Simon Leng the author is to be commended for writing this comprehensive volume so crammed with facts, that it demands a second or third read to fully digest the plethora of information.
The Author starts off by giving us a sufficiently detailed description of Mexican culture and customs, detailing Jose Santana’s (Carlos’ father) life as a Mariachi violinist, tutoring his son in the art of Mexican street music. Moving on to details of Carlos’ early days right up to the formation of the early Santana bands. From then on the story of Carlos and the Santana bands is told in a collective manner that takes in the making of each album from the very first one right through to “Supernatural”.

The reader is perfumed with inside information, the politicking, the rationale and other events behind each of Santana’s releases. The lives of other musicians, key figures or otherwise, are also touched upon, bringing meaning and life to such well known names as “Chepito” Areas, Wayne shorter, as well as the lesser known ones that most fans of Santana would know little or nothing about.

To this end Leng is to be commended for a job well done, but falls short of expectations in the pictures department. Considering that Santana is such a colorful entity, giving us black and white shots is a disappointment. Still the pictures are good ones just the same but a poor effort for a book of this kind, and for this it misses out on the fifth star rating. Thirteen photos are provided grouped together on glossy paper, plus one on the back cover.

One annoying aspect is Leng’s persistence in referring to Carlos as “the Mexican”, and other musicians as well by their nationality. Although this descriptive tool can be effective within context, its persistence to the very end is rather banal.

The book also provides us with two surprises, a description of the night Jaco Pastorious got killed, and the fact that Carlos Santana cannot read music. At the very end is a treasure trove of information in the form of two discographies– original releases, and guest appearances. Santana devotees will find this an invaluable tool for tracking down recordings of Carlos playing on other artists’ albums. A real bonus for any musicologist or interested person, is a compilation of all musicians that have ever been involved with the Santana band, as well as offshoot bands, all with micro-biographies attached.

Definitely value for money, this book not only furnishes historical facts but makes for a useful source of reference as well. Highly recommended.

Review I chose to read this book for a project in Spanish class. I play guitar, and I have always liked Carlos Santana’s playing.

This was one of two books about Carlos Santana that I could find. Carlos had a rough childhood playing violin for money in Tijuana Mexico. When he moved to America as a teenager, he first picked up a guitar, and learned to play. He eventually started a band and played small clubs in the Bay Area of San Fransisco. Simon Leng does a very good job describing Santana the man, and Santana the band from the release of the first album, to the release of the last as a full band.

Leng describes the good times, and the bad times for the band, as well as the man. One part in particular that I really liked, was when the original Santana band played at the Woodstock Festival, in 1969. Leng describes it very well from the stage setup, to what the band actually played. Sometimes, the book was a little difficult to understand, mostly because of the fact that some words are spelled differently in England, where this book was written. Also, the book can get a little boring and slow but it always gets interesting again. Unlike other “rock star” biography’s, Soul Sacrifice focuses more on Santana’s life, than on his drug use, and womanizing.

I love to read books about bands, and guitarists, so naturally I wanted to read about Carlos Santana. This book is one i would definitely recommend if you play guitar, or if you love Carlos Santana’s playing/style of music. Also, It is a great book to read if you want to learn more about Santana. I believe that Simon Leng did very good research for this book, and I liked the way he wrote this book. I learned a lot from this book about an amazing guitar player, and his well earned fame.

It was a great book, and I hope that this review can help you.

May 17, 2013 Posted by | Book Soul Sacrifice: The Santana Story by Simon Leng | , | Leave a comment

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 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 | | Leave a comment

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 | | Leave a comment

Santana Welcome (1973)


A hard-to-tell record. Obviously nowhere near as close to the masterpiece that was Caravanserai, it is still far from a pure return to the unabashed Latino-thumping days of old. I’d say that at this point Santana’s well-promoted spirituality had finally gotten the best of him. I mean, on Caravanserai his spirituality prompted Carlos to take up his guitar and play beautiful solos, and it also prompted him and the band to pen some excellent atmospheric numbers.

But Welcome seems to be just a vastly puffed-up record that seems to tell the listener: ‘sit back and relax and wonder at how very spiritual we all are, be like us’. But it forgets to back that claim with well-written melodies or atmosphere that would be as equally compelling as on the last record. There are no advances at all, and in some respects, there is regress.

For instance, neither the opening nor the closing cut don’t do anything for me even if they are supposed to. The grand Mellotron lines that open ‘Going Home’ and seem to be lifted directly from Genesis’ ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ (coincidence, of course, but an unpleasant one) are way too pretentious for their own sake, and when the guitar finally arrives it does nothing but croak out a limited, monotonous set of pseudo-moody phrasing.

Same goes for the title track – over a six-minute running length it does little but give the impression that it’s going to be cut off any time soon, but instead it just goes on and on, slow, droning, repetitive, poorly performed, a generic “heavenly bore”. One might remark that Caravanserai also had a similar percentage of ‘proto-ambient’ tracks; but they were done much better, and they could also be treated as tasty ‘introductions’ and ‘conclusions’ to the real meat of that album.

But there are problems with the “real meat” on Welcome. First of all, what the hell happened to the instrumentation? Sure, the band does sound like the Santana of old – but only on the surface. Neither Rolie nor the other band members do not offer us any interesting solos, and Carlos himself lets rip only a couple of times (‘Yours Is The Light’ is the sole major guitar highlight on the entire album). Well, come to think of it, Rolie couldn’t offer us anything interesting – he’d already left the band, replaced by Tom Coster, and much as I sneered at the guy in the earliest days, I sure miss him on this album.

On the other hand, the generic Latin jams are back: ‘Samba De Sausalito’ and a couple other tracks are the same acceptable, but completely conventional dance-it-up stuff that we had in spades on Abraxas. You like it, you get it; but I was kinda hoping that Carlos had already superated that stage. I was sure wrong.

The funk element is also back again – ‘When I Look Into Your Eyes’ is the perfect epitome of routine background funk, even if the flute is nice, Leon Thomas’ singing is competent and the final section, dominated by a strange “hoarse” synthesizer tone, will certainly raise a couple of eyebrows. And Santana is at least trying to bring in some relative diversity, relying on African rhythms (‘Mother Africa’).

But the vocal tunes on here are fluffy (‘Love Devotion And Surrender’, reminding us of the ill-fated Mahavishnu collaboration, is pure cheese, and the other songs with lyrics are forgettable as well), and the lengthy marathon ‘Flame-Sky’ is only vaguely attractive in a couple of places.

Overall, Welcome strikes me as a mostly unsuccessful attempt to marry Santana’s unpretentious dancey past with the more spiritual approach of Caravanserai. Maybe he was a little frightened by the start of his commercial decline – after all, the material of Caravanserai was hardly radio-friendly – and so wanted a healthy compromise that would allow him to be true to his soul and his gurus as well as rake in some badly needed cash, too.

But unfortunately, the public didn’t buy into the hybrid – the record nearly flopped, and it’s easy to see why: one part of the public wanted their “Latin headbanging” back without any compromises, and the other part, dazzled by Carlos’ astonishing work on the previous album, was mightily disappointed (like me) at his understated presence here. Still, it ain’t necessarily a bad record – I don’t see how it could be worse than Abraxas, in all honesty – and Santana fans can hardly go wrong with it. It’s just miles away from his cathartic peak.

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Santana Welcome | | Leave a comment

Santana III (1971)


I’ll say it straight out; this is a fantastic album.

I’m not at all familiar with most of Santana’s musical output, but I do know that he made a name for himself with a smashing performance in 1969 when he played at Woodstock, the same year his first album was released. I also know that he has experienced real highs and lows throughout his long career, capped by a massive comeback in 1999 with his Supernatural album, which I believe has actually become one of the top 20 or 30 best selling albums of all time, and certainly his biggest triumph in the commercial sense.

While Supernatural certainly wasn’t bad, I personally don’t think it comes close to the brilliant musicianship contained on this self-titled effort, which was his third album and released in 1971.

These early Santana albums were probably the first successful mainstream fusion of Latin music and rhythms with hard rock; not a great surprise considering Santana’s Mexican roots and American upbringing. This album is a fascinating listen from start to finish…the blend of different styles experimented with just work together magically.

Just listen to the opening track, “Batuka,” one of the finest rock instrumentals I’ve ever heard. Normally one would assume that Latin influenced music is cheesy poppy stuff that people in Brazil like to grind to. Or people in North America stupidly consider the likes of Ricky Martin to be a “groundbreaking” crossover fusion of latin music with rock, which of course is complete poppycock.

Yes, “Batuka” is a clear message that Latin music can actually have balls… just listen to the complex percussion accompanied with funky bass rhythms and a plethora of heavy guitar riffs courtesy of good ‘ol Carlos himself. He also liberally throws hyperactive melodic solos around that are short and sweet enough to remain an impressive showcase of his technical ability without becoming irritating endless wankfests as many other guitarists tended to indulge in at the time. He certainly has a knack for melodic playing with great feel. Also, check out the addition of the crazy organ towards the end of the song, which reminds one of the best of Deep Purple!

The rest of the album pretty much retains this high level of songwriting and musicianship, perfecting the blend of Latin rhythms with blues, soul, lounge, and of course the hard rock which cements it all together. Some songs lean more heavily towards pure Latin music even sung in Spanish, and then there’s others like “Everybody’s Everything” which sound more like a ’60s James Brown soul pop number. All the tracks are very melodic and interesting without ever sounding too commercial… they perfectly reflect the album cover in that listening to the album is like embarking on a journey into a mystical land.

April 5, 2013 Posted by | Santana III | | Leave a comment

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 III: Legacy Edition (2006)


The year was 1971, and young Neil Schon had a big decision to make. The 17-year-old guitar prodigy was invited by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominoes at the same time that he was invited by Carlos Santana to join his group. Schon chose Santana just in time to go into the studio to join in the recording of the band’s third album.

By the time Santana III was recorded, the band was still riding the huge wave they created with their historic appearance at Woodstock two years earlier. Their self-titled first album had reached #4 on the Billboard Album Chart, and their second, Abraxas, sold more than four-million and reached #1 in 1970. Everything seemed to be going their way.

What most of their fans didn’t know was that the pressure of success was taking its toll on the group, and by 1971 they were on the verge of disintegrating. Santana wanted the band to put emphasis on its Mexican musical roots. Greg Rollie, an original member of the band when it was formed in 1966 as the Santana Blues Band, wanted to go with a more progressive sound and themed concept albums, which suited young Schon just fine, given his classical training.

The tensions became more than the group could handle, and soon after the release of Santana III, the band’s members went their separate ways. Rollie later formed Journey, which would also become Schon’s home.

What’s Significant About Santana III: Legacy Edition
• It is the last album recorded by the original Woodstock-era lineup and the first that included Neil Schon
• It contains three songs that were recorded during those 1971 studio sessions but have not been released previously
• The second CD in the set contains the band’s complete final set on the night that the legendary Fillmore West in San Francisco closed

Carlos Santana is rightfully credited (along with Ritchie Valens, Tito Puente, Jose Feliciano and Los Lobos) with bringing Latin rock into the American mainstream. We shouldn’t forget, though, that Santana was also an important fixture in the late ’60s San Francisco music scene that also included the likes of Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, all of whom owe a good measure of their success to promoter Bill Graham and his legendary Fillmore West.

The original Santana lineup first played the Fillmore in December 1968. The final Fillmore performance came on July 4, 1971 and is released for the first time in its entirety on this CD set.

Who Should Buy Santana III: Legacy Edition
•Anyone who is new to classic rock and wants to fully appreciate the work of this legendary group
•Santana completists who want to own every version of everything the band and any of its individual members ever recorded
•Rock fans who appreciate the exponentially superior sound of digital reproduction when compared to the vinyl discs we originally heard this music on

Old vs. New: Who Wins?

If there’s any danger here it is that reissuing classic Santana material, especially with the previously unreleased bonuses in this package, may overshadow Santana’s newest album (All That I Am). Of course, it could have the opposite effect and boost both concert ticket and album sales. Either way, this release is well-timed in relation to the Santana comeback that began in 1999 and is still going strong.

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

Santana The Woodstock Experience (2009)


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 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