Saturday, December 24, 2016

Santana - 1969 [2009] "Santana"

Santana is the debut studio album by Latin rock band Santana released in 1969. Over half of the album's length is composed of instrumental music, recorded by what was originally a purely free-form jam band. At the suggestion of manager Bill Graham, the band took to writing more conventional songs for more impact, but managed to retain the essence of improvisation in the music.
The album was destined to be a major release, given a headstart by the band's seminal performance at the Woodstock Festival earlier that August. Although "Jingo" was not very successful (only reaching #56), "Evil Ways", the second single taken from the album, was a U.S. Top 10 hit. The album peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart and #26 on the UK Albums Chart. It has been mixed and released in both stereo and quadraphonic.

Before the arrival of Carlos Santana's eponymous band, the San Francisco rock scene drew the inspiration for its jam-oriented music mainly from blues, rock, and Eastern modalities. Santana added Latin music to the mix, forever changing the course of rock & roll history. On their groundbreaking debut album, the group mix Latin percussion with driving rock grooves. Santana's unique guitar style, alternately biting and liquid, vies with the multiple percussionists for the sonic focus.
Unlike later efforts, Santana's first album features an abundance of loose, collective compositions based on a couple of simple riffs ("Jingo," "Soul Sacrifice"). This approach allows for Santana and his bandmates to flex their improvisational muscles to fine effect. The high-energy level on Santana is infectious -- the laid-back feel of other '60s San Francisco groups was clearly not for Carlos and co.

Santana's first album boils, fries and cooks whilst other bands just simmer and whilst recent offerings from the guitarist are less than hot this is where any prospective fan ought to start. The band of excellent musicians play with professional abandon and vitality. This is Latin music that is infectious and exciting and deserves to be in any self respecting music lovers collection. The next couple of albums improved on the formula but this is a joy to listen to from start to finish. 

By the time Santana arrived on the San Francisco scene in 1968, the Grateful Dead's freeform antics were already legendary. But Santana was a jam band of another order--fueled by Latin rhythms, blues, bebop, and straight-ahead rock. Having set the audience at the 1969 Woodstock festival on its collective ear, the band did the same for the nation with its self-titled debut, released later that summer. Songs such as "Evil Ways," "Jingo," and "Soul Sacrifice" contain extraordinary ensemble playing, powered by percolating congas and timbales and topped by the grippingly human cry of Carlos Santana's guitar. The 1998 reissue of the album contains three bonus tracks recorded live at Woodstock: "Savor," "Soul Sacrifice," and "Fried Neckbones."

 Carlos Santana was born in Mexico in 1947, and moved to San Francisco during the 1960s. With a love of jazz and blues music, he began to develop into a talented guitarist, at the same time absorbing the hippie scene of San Francisco. He formed the Carlos Santana Blues Band in 1967, which soon became renowned for their improvisational jam-based style. They stood out for their incorporation of latin musical styles into their sound, and by 1969 were signed to Columbia Records, having changed their name to simply Santana. Their big break was their highly-acclaimed performance at the Woodstock festival, which really brought them to public attention.
Their debut album came out that same summer. It was a truly innovative release, laying down the framework for their signature sound, with its fusion of latin-styled rock, blues, jazz, salsa and African rhythms. By this time the band's line-up consisted of Carlos Santana (guitar/vocals), Gregg Rolie (keyboards/vocals), David Brown (bass), Michael Shrieve (drums), Michael Carabello (percussion) and Jose Areas (percussion). The focus of the album was on their instrumental interplay, driven by the three-piece percussion section and led by Santana's fast-paced, bluesy electric guitar work. Most of the album consisted of instrumentals, as was fitting considering their jam band roots, though there were a few vocal numbers brought in to attract a wider audience, with Gregg Rolie proving to be an excellent lead singer. This was a good idea, as their cover of "Evil Ways" (originally written by Clarence 'Sonny' Henry) became a #9 hit single. Following in its wake, the album got to #4.

Track listing

All tracks written by the members of Santana except where noted.

1.     "Waiting (instrumental)"       4:03
2.     "Evil Ways" (Clarence "Sonny" Henry)     3:54
3.     "Shades of Time" (Carlos Santana, Gregg Rolie)     3:14
4.     "Savor (instrumental)"       2:47
5.     "Jingo" (Babatunde Olatunji)     4:21
6.     "Persuasion"       2:33
7.     "Treat (instrumental)"       4:43
8.     "You Just Don't Care"       4:34
9.     "Soul Sacrifice (instrumental)" (Carlos Santana, Gregg Rolie, David Brown, Marcus Malone)     6:37


    Gregg Rolie – lead vocals, Hammond organ, piano
    Carlos Santana – guitar, backing vocals
    David Brown – bass
    Michael Shrieve – drums
    Michael Carabello – congas, percussion
    José "Chepito" Areas – timbales, congas, percussion