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Carlos Santana - Carlos Santana & Alice Coltrane: Illuminations CD (album) cover


Carlos Santana

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
5 stars After having blown us away with the supern Caravanserai and its sister album Borboletta and confirmed with his second solo album (the McLaughlin collab LDS) Carlos confirms that his love for John Coltrane is simply over-powering. This time he pulls another blistering album with Coltrane's widow Alice (who was having her own brilliant career after her huisband's death) who specialized in writibng string arrangements and playing the harp). The album also boasts jazz giants dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette as well as the usual Santana-sidemates of Coster and Peraza.

Again, the album is drooling of Sri Chinmoy's spirituality, but as in LDS, it hardly hinders (and most likely enhances) the album's superb music. After a forgettable intro, the album peaks directly into a superb 11-min+ Angel Of Air, which develops paradisiaque ambiances not un-similar to Caravanserai and will drive you straight to orgasm if you can dig Alice's harpand strings. Another superb highlight is the awesome Alice Coltrane-penned Eternal Now. Angel Of Sunlight is a whopping 15-min monster track boasting some great tabla drum works but the lengthy instrumental interplay between Carlos' guitar and Broussard's sax must be one of the best example of perfect jazz-rock soloing. The album closes on another string and harp laden title track.

If the album might appear to drowned out in heavy and over-powering (but neverv really cheesy) string arangements, these are more subtle than many other strings that the proghead is used to and I aim particularly at Tull's David Palmer. What we have here is yet another pearl of Carlos' almost impeccable career so far, the two exceptions being Welcome and the Live cxollab with Buddy Miles. This was really a tough decision whether to award it its fifth star or not, though.

Report this review (#95733)
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is beautiful album made in collaboration with Alice Coltrane and inspired by the then Carlos' spiritual association with Sri Chinmoy. Alice's orchestral string arrangements and harp add a romantic feel to this album, which can be described as a symphonic-jazz fusion. Upright bass, various percussion (but hardly any drums!) and occasional acoustic moments provide a pleasant and enjoying listen. Carlos' solo parts are excellent as always, but they are not excessive like on some SANTANA band rock albums. There are of course oriental spices in the music often similar to those LEB I SOL used on their phenomenal second album.

Illuminations, apart from silly and naive cover painting with angels, is one of the best fusion albums I heard.


P.A. RATING: 5/5

Report this review (#167198)
Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars In all honesty, I listened to this album after the re-discovery of the very good ''Love Devotion Surrender'' album.

For the reasons I have evoked in the review of this album, I fell in love again with Carlos's solo work for a (short) while. You should still pay some attention here, since the man was under ''spiritual influence''. I have witnessed a live experience (the first ''Santana'' tour in continental Europe in '74 or '75) and it was not the best time of the man (band); for sure.

Because to be truly honest, this album can't compete with its predecessor. To put things into perspective, I have no clue at all about Coltrane's work and if some of you have read one of my reviews, you might know by now that jazz is absolutely not my cup of tea. Still, I have listened to almost every single album from dear old friend Carlos and I have accordingly rate each of them within the bracket of one to five stars. I am a huge fan but I am not blind (no more heroes anymore since . 1978).

This album holds ONE very good ''Santana'' piece of music; but after all I was expecting this, wasn't I? Still, there are too many sax parts to my Latin rock ears.

I guess that it was difficult for Carlos to match the quality of his first studio solo effort (how the hell can you replace Mc Laughlin?), and I have to say that I have to endure too many orchestrations in here.

Were all these harpsichords necessary? My answer is NO. They might add a sweet aspect to these jams, but I ain't a freak of those ones, really. Is there any need to listen to the great Carlito with a bunch a backing strings (''Illuminations'')? My answer is NO.

I will rate this work with three stars, but it is really an average record with absolutely no relation with prog. But so were any ''Santana'' album IMHHO.

Report this review (#192222)
Posted Sunday, December 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Beside Santana band"s great success in early 70-s, band's leader Carlos Santana released series of solo duets. He started with not very successful live recorded album with Buddy Miles, then released excellent duet with John McLaughlin. This album is third and last in this series.

This time Santana plays with Coltrane 's widow Alice, strong string musician and arranger on her own right. Music is very different from usual Santana band's and solo recordings, and is highly influenced by free-jazz and Indian music. As a result, this recording is possibly most difficult and less accessible album in all Santana career. But there you can hear Carlos can play!

In fact this album received disappointing critics and fans reaction from time of release. Millions of fans waited melodic Latin rock or Santana's guitar driven hot jazz-rock. But music there is very different. Meditative, with strong oriental scent, free-form, it was never accepted by wide listener. But it's a big mistake, because only hear every listener has a rare possibility to hear Santana playing excellent, but very different guitar music. Complex structures and absolutely different guitar sound give great possibility to hear Carlos as real jazz fusion musician.

This instrumental album generally has nothing in common with nice but stereotype Carlos guitar sound signature. If you're searching for one more "classic" Santana's guitar solo, just chose his any other album. But this one is for those interested in delightful and very different great guitarist sound and searching for Santana's most serious musical work till now.

Very recommended for everyone who is not sure if Santana is great JAZZ-ROCK musician.

Report this review (#272323)
Posted Tuesday, March 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A really singular and holy recording from Carlos Santana, who sadly in my opinion has got his fame from commercial productions too often left on levels of secular Latin partying, in spite of the spiritual devotion of the maestro himself - I agree though that the world would be sadder place without secular Latin partying. Maybe the contrast to his radio hits also makes his spiritual recordings shine ever more brightly. This symphonic celestial revelation, conjured with Alice Coltrane and other ace musicians like Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, really reaches the heights only by angel's wings one can venture. Album mingles together the jazz impressionism, Santana's unique psychedelic guitar tones and harmonies from both European and Indian classical music elements, forming an unique apparition of beauty.

The voyage begins from the meditative aphorism of Carlos' Guru "Love is God's life-bless within us". The chant and this recitation directs the orientation towards religious mystic experiences, being embodied first by two visions of angels, one for air and another of water. Alice's string arrangements, Dave's firm and soft bass lines with ethereal waves from the cymbal plates allow the angels speak trough Santana's fingers upon his guitar's frets. I felt special enjoyment from the ethereal background of this movement for Carlos to play, instead of the strong rhythm presence I often have found dominating his major albums. The harp motive from Alice possibly changes the seraph of airs to the one from waters, cinematopic symphony layers strengthening her blissful characteristics. Saxophone of Jules Broussard is also allowed to have quite much space, and the composition waves calmly from celestial peaks to peaceful moments of all-devouring god's love. The portraits of these elementary heralds lead to the bliss of infinity being realized from the current moment, everlasting in the history from now on. This powerfully orchestrated ethereal sequence swirls with vastness of ecstatic confrontation of universal eternity. The divine movement holds only quite light emphasis for the guitar, allowing much space for piano, harp and symphonic orchestra's string powerful dramatics. The third angel holds the element of sunlight, conjured from oriental circling themes and grandiose yearning of amplified solo guitar call, being answered from Indian drums and bow-played upright bass prayers. The sonic carpet rich with mythical details is revealed after few minutes for more concrete melodic solo passages for guitar, saxophone and keyboards, powered by Jack's identifiable drum turmoil and solidly flowing jazz bass foundation. A really shimmering quart of an hour, the merging of solo instruments leading to the culmination peak opening the gates for the spiritual target of the voyage; Illuminations on sublime piano and string borne symbol of religious hope are decorated with gentle symbols of Carlos and Alice's tonal art.

Though slightly naďve and syrupy like religious and mystic encounters might be, the yearning for happiness and infinity is evidently transmitted from the harmonic yearnings of the closing tune. I like very much Carlos' earlier work with McLaughlin on their "Love Devotion Surrender", but however I adore the charms of this religious record even more, maybe due the presence of sacred feminine mystics uniting with power of masculine potential, these contrasting powers allowing more harmonic potentials being realized on this unique album.

Report this review (#807816)
Posted Monday, August 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Perhaps the most unexpected Santana album of the 70's and miles away from the typical Santana rock sound, this effort is highly experimental, fuzzy and free riding. On board are exotic instruments like harp, saxophones and keyboards. It's a spiritual work full of ecstasy and I am glad that apart from the Santana keyboard player, also some pure jazz musicians joined the board.

There are some more quiet and meditative moments in the beginning and end. There is one single track that is worth all the album, namely the 15-minute "Angel of sunlight" that boasts guitar/saxophone frenzy and crazy jazz psychedelic drumming.

This is a perfectly balanced album of reflective moments and mighty fusion but it is an acquired taste for most of the Santana fans and thus not for everybody. 1974 was the last very strong year for Santana!

Report this review (#2343535)
Posted Wednesday, March 18, 2020 | Review Permalink

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