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Santana - Abraxas CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.24 | 537 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
5 stars Is this the first popular world-music album? Who knows – maybe. ‘Abraxas’ is one of those records, along with stuff like ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘Rumours’ that belongs in every music collection. Doesn’t really matter what kind of music fan you are, this one fits in your stacks. Preferably on vinyl. Regrettably my copy is a CD, but at least it’s the 30th anniversary edition with some bonus live tracks and several great vintage photos of the band. And a crystal clear drawing of that Amazonian goddess splashed across the cover. Hard to believe I was just eight years old when this came out (and about ten or eleven when I discovered it). Wasn’t the music that I discovered though, I was still too young for that. It was that goddess, her along with the Latin chick sitting in whipped cream on the Herb Albert album in my Dad’s collection. Good times .

Anyway this was an instant classic, yielding the band two smash singles with Peter Green’s “Black Magic Woman” and Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va”. Those two amazing tracks alone would have been enough for the career of most musicians, but Carlos Santana and Gregg Rolie at least would both go on to lengthy and successful careers even after this lineup ground to a halt a few years after this release. The album stayed on the charts for more than a year, an amazing feat for what is basically a Latin-and- blues extended jam session. I’ve vacillated on what really makes this album work. Santana’s guitar of course. But Rolie’s B3 rocks the house as well and gives hints as to the creative process that would manifest itself later in such Journey classics as "Kohoutek", the hazy summer anthem “Feeling That Way”, and of course “Hope You’re Feeling Better” which was a Rolie composition. “Samba Pa Ti” especially calls to mind that same sound, something that really evokes the carefree and natural spirit of the American northwest.

But back to what makes this band work. The contribution of the percussion is undeniable. This is what turns the album from a complex blues work into something that is ethnic and spicy and intensely energetic. Santana knew this I think, and as his career progressed he always seemed to do his best work when he surrounded himself with marimbas and congas and timbales and the syncopated and hypnotic cadences they lent to the music. “El Nicoya” closes the album with the most striking example of this, but Chepito Areas and Michael Carabello left their mark all over this album.

So really it was the combination of everything, plus probably the free spirit of the times and the open- mindedness of so many young people who were willing to try anything once, even this strangely wonderful ethnic music that was first tossed on the world stage at Woodstock just before this album was released.

The anniversary edition has three live recordings from a Royal Albert Hall concert recorded April 18, 1970. They include a longer and more piano-driven version of “Se a Cabo”; the Santana guitar freak- out “Toussaint”; and a red-eyed, cotton-mouthed intense rendition of “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” that must have been unbelievably awesome for those who witnessed it (or at least those who remembered it).

This is a classic, and unquestionably an essential part of any progressive, blues, fusion, world, or hippy record collection. So really just about anyone should have this. If you don’t, buy it. Five stars.


ClemofNazareth | 5/5 |


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