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Santana - Abraxas CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.24 | 534 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars My two hundredth review on PA coincides with a fabulous album.

This was the first album I purchased. Back in January 1971. As an almost twelve years old boy, I was entering the world of giants (Led Zep, Deep Purple, Santana, Ten Years After, The Who and Hendrix were my faves at that time). My Santana experience so far was their fantastic performance at Woodstock with "Soul Sacrifice - The Soundtrack". No full version, no remastering. Just over eight minutes of pure glory.

I was at a glance quite found of the cover artwork from Abraxas : the incredible "Black Magic Woman" and the very erotic "Angel" were rather hypnotic for me (I was only twelve if you see what I mean). It' is difficult to tell how many HOURS I looked at it ! The inside cover was a shot from the band during a concert. It is to be noticed that at this time of their career, the front line on stage was represented by Gregg, David (on bass) and the congas/timbales duo (Michael Carabello and Josť Chepito Areas). Carlos being a bit behind.

In terms of composition, it is a band effort. Carlos contributing to only two tracks ("Incident At Neshabur" and "Samba Pa'Ti"). Carabello will compose one ("Singing Winds, Crying Beast"). Gregg will participate with "Mother's Daughter" and "Hope You're Feeling Better". Chepito wrote two songs "Se A Cabo" and "El Nicoya".

The opener "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts" has always been impregnated with mystery. It's a jazzy track which sounds as an improv. Smooth feeling, subtle piano work and lots of gong sounds. Still, this opener has never been my cup of tea.

Of course, from the next song onwards, the story is completely different. The cover song "Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen" is one of the highlight here (but there are more, don't worry). One of my old-time Santana faves (but I guess I have about twenty of them). Anyway : a great track. It will be immortalized by Santana (peaking at Nr. 4 on the Billboard) while the original version from Fleetwood Mac only reached the 37th spot in the UK chart. It was inspired by Gabor Szabo's "Gypsy Queen" written in 1967. Guitar work is gorgeous. The so typical vocals from Gregg : he sings as a black while being a white ! He will say that it took him one year to convince the band to perform the song ! "Nobody wanted to play it". Carlos will mention : "We played that song for the very first time at a sound check and we saw what it did to people there. So we played it that evening".

As the leading latin-rock band of the time, I guess they had to produce a pure latino hit and they achieved it with "Oye Como Va ? - "Hey ! How Are You Doing ?) which is a cover as well of a number written by Ernesto "Tito" Puente (in 1962), the king of the timbales.The finale is a great guitar solo from the master. This hit-single will peak at Nr. 13 in the US charts.

The next song " Incident at Neshabur" is not one of their best known song BUT I can tell you, it is a great tune : fantastic rythm, great work from Gregg Rolie, and a fully emotional guitar play during the last part of the song which will only be surpassed by ... well, I will tell you in a few lines.

B-side starts with "Se A Cabo" - (It Is All Over), from "Chepito". It is a rageous number with great percussions work from Areas, Carabello and Shrieve.

"Mother's Daughter" is just in line : good vocals (although this album is mostly instrumental), and as always a fantastic drums/ congas / timbales part. It is a hard and violent track which reminds me of "You Just Don't Care" from their first album. Bass play is great as well.

With the first few notes from the next one, I knew I was entering into something VERY special. OK, it is the most radio played Santana tune : so what ? Here and there, they will produced great (or average) live renditions of it. Yes, man. I am talking about "Samba Pa' Ti" - Samba For You". I will use a quote to highlight Carlos's guitar play in general : when Clapton was asked which was the guitar player he liked the most, he answered : "Carlos Santana. Because he is the most emotional one".

I can tell you, when you listen to this masterpiece (and potentially for the oldest ones of you like myself if you have ever danced with a beloved one) you will definetely agree.

Next song "Hope You're Feeling Better" has always been one of my Abraxas fave although it does not belong to their classic repertoire. Hard as well like "Mother's Daughter". The middle part has always bring me to another level (it's quite complicated to describe, though). Try and dicover it is my only recommendation.

"El Nicoya" is, by far, the weakest track and should have been avoided. Fortunately, it only lasts for 1'39".

As a Santana fan, I purchased the remastered CD version with three bonus tracks. these are live recordings from two Abraxas songs : "Se A Cabo" (average) and "Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen" (great rendition). They were recordedat The Royal Albert Hall on April 18th, 1970. The last track "Toussaint l'Overture" will be one of the many fabulous tracks from Santana III.

Santana is on his way to glory. Immediately. Carlos will say "All of a sudden, you had a bunch of kids who, next thing you know, were going to New York and hanging out with Miles Davis and all these incredible musicians, coexisting with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Who". Gregg will add : "At the time, it was just unbelievable that it was all happening, going from obscurity to everybody knowing who you are. I never got into this scene very much, it was like watching yourself going through it. I could never catch up to where I was".

About the Abraxas sound, Carlos will tell : "We did change rapidly because we had to; we had to learn fast to keep up. All the material we played on the first album, we were playing for three or four years already, so all of a sudden we had to go hunt for or create new songs".

Who knows when (or even if) they will release a "Legacy Edition" for "Abraxas" like they did for their first album (I would love this to happen). The album entered the US chart in October 1970. It will peak at Nr. 1 for six weeks and will stay in the charts for 88 weeks.

I rate this effort with five stars. IMO there is not one prog moment in here. Just fantastic music.

ZowieZiggy | 5/5 |


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