Santana III: Legacy Edition
Carlos Santana is now revered as a guitar hero and symbol of musical diversity like few, if any, living figures in contemporary music. The San Francisco native took a decidedly circuitous route to this prestigious position, notwithstanding the commercial slant of his most recent, Grammy-award-winning blockbusters.
In the autumn of 1971, the band to which Carlos Santana had given his name were at the zenith of commercial popularity. Having unleashed their sizzling fusion of blues, rock and Latin music at the Woodstock Festival in 1969that entire set included in its entirety on the deluxe double disc package of the eponymous debut albumthe group had consolidated and extended its commercial gains even further with the release of their second album Abraxas and the attendant success of "Black Magic Woman.
As suggested by the otherwise slight "Everything's Coming Out Way, Santana was in a positive state of flux, in both personnel and artistic terms upon the release of the release of The Third Santana Album (it was given no official title). Moving more deeply into the roots of their music had mixed results, but additional personnel maintained the group's imposing instrumental fusion.
The original sextet was augmented for the new album by young (at the time 15) guitarist Neal Schon (who later went on to form Journey with Santana keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie). Carlos executed some wicked exchanges with his precocious partner on "Batuka and "No None to Depend On and the superb recording by Glen Kolotkin (here accentuated by a digital remastering that revels even more of a vicious edge), in combination with the otherwise stellar production, suits the mind-boggling (bending?) interaction of the players. There's even some stereo panning that, in some cases during this era came across gimmicky, but here is enormously effective
With bonus tracks included on the first disc of the two in this package, listeners have the ability to sequence a whole new, near-hour long version of the studio album by substituting "Gumbo, "Folsom Street-One and "Banbye for "Everybody's Everything, "Everything's Coming Our Way and "Para Los Rumberos. You might retain the latter as a rootsy coda, but even if you did, you would end up with an album decidedly different from and definitely superior to the version as originally issued.
Instead of a somewhat tentative homage to source influences, presented by the horn section that sounds like a afterthought, you'd be hearing a streamlined hard rock piece, laced with a formidable Latin undercurrent(a nod to Tito Puente), its power and versatility (a forward-thinking gesture represented by the inclusion of Gene Ammons' "Jungle Strut ) elevated by the addition of Schon as well as percussionist Coke Escovedo. Jim McCarthy's liner notes strain to match the diversity as well as the pure visceral power contained in this music, not to mention the street credibility referenced by Bill Graham in his concert introduction to the group the second disc of this deluxe package.
A complete set of this same band live from the Fillmore West in 1971 (in actuality the final show at the famed venue) extends the impact of the hypothetical reconfiguring of the studio recordings. The band retains its musical sources of Santana, as well as its sensuous, insinuating dynamics(much of it due to the sensitive touch of drummer Michael Shrieve). It is completely shorn of the tentative approach that afflicted the misconceived studio work.
Beginning the set with a clutch of new numbers from the yet-to-be-released album, you're immediately struck by the superior sound quality that is the norm for Santana recordings , the source recording containing only the single minor blemish on the low level afflicting Gregg Rolie's vocal early in the sultry "Taboo. Otherwise these tracks, heretofore released only in part on various anthologies, is a lesson in sophisticated, collective energy, fulfilling the striking mysterious cover graphics from the original album enhanced in this configuration
The hour-long recording points out how Santana and Schon were developing a simpatico fretboard partnership, in the tandem playing (a la The Allman Brothers who were set to release Fillmore East that same summer) as well as the call and response rhythm work. Also significant as occurring at the closing of the famous rock venue, this concert recording also provides the first inkling of Carlos' fascination with jazz as, notably, Santana's most famous tune, "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen is closely followed by Miles Davis' "In A Silent Way.
Soon after the release of Santana III, Carlos Santana forsook the marketplace by pursuing the avenue of jazz. He began with a realigned group, early on dubbed the new Santana Band, before collaboration with John McLaughlin, himself at the apogee of wide- spread acceptance heading the Mahavishnu Orchestra as the flag bearer for jazz-rock fusion music in the mid-to late Seventies. By late in that decade however, Santana resumed his careerism with Moonflower, effectively lost his muse through a string of desultory Santana band albums, until reviving his career early in the new millennium.
If only at least a fraction of those hearing the titles that repositioned Carlos' mainstream cache, All That I Am and Shaman, were to have their curiosity piqued enough to give a listen to early Santana like this one, the jazz-oriented titles such as Welcome (most all of which have been reissued in remastered expanded versions, the live Lotus an egregious omission), or even the splendid anthology Dance of the Rainbow Serpent they'd be getting an accurate history of Santana.
Disc One: Batuka; No One to Depend On; Taboo; Toussaint L'Overture; Everybody's Everything; Guajira; Jungle Strut; Everything's Coming Our Way; Para los Rumberos Gumbo; Folsom Street-One; Banbeye; No One to Depend On.
Disc Two: Batuka; No One to Depend On; Toussaint L'Overture; Taboo; Jungle Strut; Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen; Incident at Neshabur; In a Silent Way; Savor; Para los Rumberos; Gumbo.
Personnel: Jose "Chepito Areas: timbales, congas, percussion, vocals, drum and flugelhorn; David Brown: bass; Michael Carabello: congas, vocals, percussion and tambourine; Gregg rolie: piano, organ and vocals; Carlos Santnaa: guitar and vocals; Nel Schon: guitar; Michael Shrieve: drums, percussion and vibes; Coke Escovedo: background vocals and percussion; Tower of Power Horns; Rico Reyes: background vocals; Linda Tillery: background vocals; Mario Ochoa: piano; Greg Errico: tambourine.