Yesterday And Today With Santana

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Santana circa 1972
Santana circa 1972

The last time that the classic Santana lineup that featured guitarists Carlos Santana and Neal Schon, keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie, percussionist Michael Carabello and drummer Michael Shrieve played together was back in 1973.At the time, Richard Milhous Nixon was president, Motorola put the first handheld mobile phone on the market, The Godfather won the Best Picture Oscar and gas cost 55 cents a gallon. Fast forward 43 years later and Barack Obama is finishing up his second term, Spotlight nailed the Best Picture Oscar, gas is about $2.16 a gallon and the Santana quintet reunited for a brand new project called Santana IV. And while Carlos Santana has recorded 23 studio albums with different incarnations of Santana, below are the ones that set the table for these five crucial members to return in 2016.

SantanaSidebar_041416_SantanaSantana (Columbia) [1969]
The self-titled debut that introduced Santana to the world featured the hit “Evil Ways,” which was originally on a 1967 album by jazz percussionist Willie Bobo, and also showcased the integral part percussion played in the group’s overall sound thanks to a pounding reading of a Babatunde Olatunji instrumental that was renamed “Jingo” and the original “Soul Sacrifice,” whose live version became a Woodstock highlight.

 

 

SantanaSidebar_041416_AbraxasAbraxas (CBS) [1970]
Fresh off its triumph at Woodstock, Santana went on to record a sophomore album that became a cornerstone of their canon and was later deemed “culturally, historically, or artistically relevant” by the National Recording Registry this year. And while the radio hits on this are substantial and include covers of Fleetwood Mac (“Black Magic Woman”), Gabor Szabo (“Gypsy Queen”) and Tito Puente (“Oye Como Va”), there are other worthy deeper cuts including the unrelenting instrumental “Incident at Neshabur” and its sublimely gorgeous sister “Samba Pa Ti.”
SantanaSidebar_041416_SantanaIIISantana III (Columbia) [1971]
This outing was the first to showcase a then-17-year-old Neal Schon on guitar after he’d been invited to join the band by the band namesake after Rolie and Shrieve brought him around to Wally Heider Studios where the group was recording at the time. Schon quickly proved himself on this nine-song collection, which features radio staples “Everybody’s Everything, a the locomotive rumba spiked by the six-string prodigy’s fiery solo and “No One To Depend On,” a Latin shuffle punctuated by the call and response of both guitarists and yet another Schon solo. Elsewhere, there are explosive readings of jazz great Gene Ammons’ “Jungle Strut” and a return to the Tito Puente songbook via a horn-soaked romp through his “Para los Rumberos” that closes the album. The 2006 Legacy reissue includes four bonus tracks (including the single version of “No One To Depend On”) and a bonus disc containing a July 4, 1971 concert recorded at the Fillmore West.

 Caravanserai (Columbia) [1973]
For these 10 songs, Carlos Santana was delving deeper into creating more of a jazz-rock sound infused by Afro-Cuban rhythms that had Columbia Records president Clive Davis telling Santana that he was committing “career suicide” after Davis finished listening to it. Percussionist Carabello had left before recording and was replaced by Armando Perazo. Pressures on the band saw keyboardist Tom Coster replacing Rolie, who left over creative differences and formed Journey with Schon the following year. Only three of the songs were not instrumentals and as such, there were no hit singles. That said, Santana’s fourth studio album is considered a seminal creative shift in what the band was doing thanks to cuts like a hypnotic reworking of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Stone Flower,” the percussive/organ tour de force of the Rolie/Santana/Shrieve composition “Just In Time to See the Sun” and the Santana/Schon collaboration “All the Love of the Universe” that is defined by unrefined optimism and odd time changes.

 

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