Santana: The Woodstock Experience
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2009, Volume 16, #7
Written by John Metzger
Mon July 27, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT
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 of Evil 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.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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