First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by John Metzger
Several years ago, Santana’s self-titled debut was retrofitted with a crisper sound and a handful of bonus selections, but its latest incarnation as a two-disc set is simply astounding. Combining the original album with a handful of outtakes, the band’s complete performance at the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival, and the scrapped initial recording sessions from January 1969, the new collection paints a vivid portrait of the restless, uncontainable energy of a rising star. That the eponymous effort wasn’t perfect doesn’t matter; it has served the group remarkably well simply because its contents are so utterly unique. Standing at the crossroads between jazz and blues, Santana’s music was flavored with a healthy dose of soul-pop smoothness, worldly rhythms, and Latin spice. Although the songs on its debut didn’t fold together in as cohesive a fashion as the ensemble’s subsequent outings, the primal force with which they were delivered made quite a powerful statement while also paving a path to the future. The percolating percussion, the steady rumble of bass, and the colorful splatters of atmospheric organ congealed around the shimmering guitar flights of bandleader Carlos Santana to create an aural, urban collage of magnificent importance. True, Evil Ways became a Top 10 single, but it was within Treat’s hypnotic alternations between tender grace and spirited swing, the fiery bliss of Savor and Jingo, and the smolderingly seductive essence of Soul Sacrifice that the collective’s true intentions were buried, where new sonic textures were not only formed, but also explored. In the intervening years, many artists have tried their hand at crafting a similar concoction of styles, but none have come close to matching the spiritual transcendence inherent in Santana’s mesmerizing grooves and prismatic instrumental interludes.
For the record, none of the extra studio selections on Santana: Legacy Edition are going to change the perspectives of the unconverted, and Santana was wise to re-record the tunes rather than try to formulate something out of its shabby early sessions. Yet, all of these bonus tracks are too good and too informative to be discounted so readily. From a pair of explosive renditions of Soul Sacrifice to the loose, expansive rendering of Treat and from the probing reverie of Studio Jam to the swirling strains of Fried Neckbones, these previously unreleased snapshots undoubtedly shine a brilliant light upon the rapid period of development through which Santana was traveling. With its raw, edgy demeanor, it’s the material from Woodstock, however, that makes the expanded edition of Santana an even better outing. Granted, the best moments of the performance — Soul Sacrifice, Savor, and a supremely jazzy Fried Neckbones — appeared on the first reissue of Santana, but these songs assume a startling potency when placed within the context of the rest of the band’s stellar set. Over the course of 45-minutes, the collective ripped through a pair of cover songs and five of its own compositions as if it were possessed, and in essence, it effectively introduced itself to the world by vigorously tearing its music apart and reassembling it with an irrepressible fury. Indeed, taken along with Live at the Fillmore 1968, the refurbished Santana adds new dimensions and depths to the understanding of the group’s beginnings, and as a result, the album, despite its flaws, never has sounded more vital.
Santana [Original Album] —
Bonus Materials —
Santana: Legacy Edition —
Of Further Interest...
Santana [Legacy Edition] is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box