guitarists Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, with the backing of their respective bands, Santana and The Mahavishnu Orchestra. The album was inspired by the teachings of Sri Chinmoy and intended as a tribute to John Coltrane. It contains two Coltrane compositions, two McLaughlin songs, and a traditional gospel song arranged by Santana and McLaughlin. It was certified Gold in 1973. In 2003, Love Devotion Surrender was released on CD with alternative versions as bonus tracks.
Both men were recent disciples of the guru Sri Chinmoy, and the title of the album echoes basic concepts of Chinmoy's philosophy, which focused on "love, devotion and surrender." Sri Chinmoy spoke about the album and the concept of surrender:
Unfortunately, in the West surrender is misunderstood. We feel that if we surrender to someone, he will then lord it over us....But from the spiritual point of view...when the finite enters in the Infinite, it becomes the Infinite all at once. When a tiny drop enters into the ocean, we cannot trace the drop. It becomes the mighty ocean.
For both men the album came at a transitional moment spiritually and musically: Love Devotion Surrender was a "very public pursuit of their spiritual selves." Carlos Santana was moving from rock toward jazz and fusion, experiencing a "spiritual awakening," while McLaughlin was about to experience the break-up of the Mahavishnu Orchestra after being criticized by other band members. Santana had been a fan of McLaughlin, and McLaughlin had introduced Santana to Sri Chinmoy in 1971, at which time the guru bestowed the name "Devadip" on him, and the two had started playing and recording together in 1972. According to his biographer Marc Shapiro, Santana had much to learn from McLaughlin: "He would sit for hours, enthralled at the new ways to play that McLaughlin was teaching him," and his new spirituality had its effect on the music: "the feeling was that Carlos's newfound faith was present in every groove.
A hopelessly misunderstood record in its time by Santana fans -- they were still reeling from the radical direction shift toward jazz on Caravanserai and praying it was an aberration -- it was greeted by Santana devotees with hostility, contrasted with kindness from major-league critics like Robert Palmer. To hear this recording in the context of not only Carlos Santana's development as a guitarist, but as the logical extension of the music of John Coltrane and Miles Davis influencing rock musicians -- McLaughlin, of course, was a former Davis sideman -- this extension makes perfect sense in the post-Sonic Youth, post-rock era. With the exception of Coltrane's "Naima" and McLaughlin's
"Meditation," this album consists of merely three extended guitar jams
played on the spiritual ecstasy tip -- both men were devotees of guru
Shri Chinmoy at the time. The assembled band included members of Santana's band and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in Michael Shrieve, Billy Cobham, Doug Rauch, Armando Peraza, Jan Hammer (playing drums!), and Don Alias. But it is the presence of the revolutionary jazz organist Larry Young -- a colleague of McLaughlin's in Tony Williams' Lifetime
band -- that makes the entire project gel. He stands as the great
communicator harmonically between the two very different guitarists
whose ideas contrasted enough to complement one another in the context
of Young's aggressive approach to keep the entire proceeding in the air. In the acknowledgement section of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," which opens the album, Young creates a channel between Santana's riotous, transcendent, melodic runs and McLaughlin's rapid-fire machine-gun riffing. Young'
double-handed striated chord voicings offered enough for both men to
chew on, leaving free-ranging territory for percussive effects to drive
the tracks from underneath. Check "Let Us Go Into the House of the
Lord," which was musically inspired by Bobby Womack's "Breezing" and dynamically foreshadowed by Pharoah Sanders' read of it, or the insanely knotty yet intervallically transcendent "The Life Divine," for the manner in which Young's organ actually speaks both languages simultaneously. Young
is the person who makes the room for the deep spirituality inherent in
these sessions to be grasped for what it is: the interplay of two men
who were not merely paying tribute to Coltrane,
but trying to take his ideas about going beyond the realm of Western
music to communicate with the language of the heart as it united with
the cosmos. After three decades, Love Devotion Surrender still sounds completely radical and stunningly, movingly beautiful.
Quick! Name an album on which John McLaughlin plays piano and Jan Hammer
plays drums. Give up? The answer: the much loved but often maligned
1973 collaboration between Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, Love, Devotion and Surrender.
(At this time John was still MAHAVISHNU and Carlos was not quite yet
DEVADIP.) Now if anyone out there in musicland can determine on which
cuts John McLaughlin played the piano and Hammer played the drums - you
win a prize!
In 1973, Carlos Santana had become mesmerized by
the music of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. His interest became so strong
that he literally followed the band on tour across America. He and
McLaughlin became friendly. One night John McLaughlin had a dream that
the two should record an album together. He took that dream to Clive
Davis, the head of Columbia Records, and Love, Devotion and Surrender was born.
delivers some of the hottest playing you are ever going to hear. John
McLaughlin and Carlos Santana play their respective butts off,
especially on the inspirational "Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord".
The rapid-fire machine gun bursts and call and responses make for an
electric guitar Nirvana. Other musicians assembled for the recording
included Santana compatriots Armando Peraza, Don Alias, Doug Rauch and
Mike Shrieve. John McLaughlin brought along Jan Hammer, Billy Cobham and
the legendary organist Larry Young. Imagine a Latin Mahavishnu
At the time of this recording’s release, the patience
and reverence afforded gurus was waning. This could help explain the
relatively poor sales of Love, Devotion and Surrender relative
to expectations. After all a smiling Sri Chinmoy, in all of his splendid
grandeur, was pictured on the album cover. It may also help explain the
many negative reviews. In hindsight, you will probably find that most
of these reviews came from Santana fans that just couldn’t figure out
what was going on with their hero.
Despite all outward
appearances, the fact of the matter was that this album pointed much
more in the direction of John Coltrane than it did any guru or religious
movement. Santana is, like McLaughlin, a devoted Coltrane admirer.
McLaughlin and Santana even make the effort of trying to pull off “A
Love Supreme,” and it works very well. (Even the vocals are effective).
An acoustic treatment of “Naima” does the master proud, too. The other
players are strong on all tunes. Cobham, in particular, is a powerhouse.
In recent years, Love, Devotion and Surrender has begun receiving the praise it so richly deserves. (Bill Laswell has even released a well-received remix.) LDS
remains a milestone in the history of fusion music. We can only hope
that McLaughlin and Santana will find an opportunity to record together
again soon, something both men have hinted at.
1. A Love Supreme (7:48)
2. Naima (3:09)
3. The Life Devine (9:30)
4. Let's Go Into The House of the Lord (15:45)
5. Meditation (2:45)
Total time - 38:57
Line-up / Musicians
- Carlos Santana / guitars, vocals
- John McLaughlin / Guitar, piano
- Larry Young / organ
- Doug Rauch / bass
- Billy Cobham / drums
- Don Alias / drums
- Jan Hammer / drums
- Mike Shrieve / drums
- Armando Peraza / Congas, Bongos