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Santana - Santana 3 CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.00 | 299 ratings

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4 stars 3rd Time Lucky...

OK, not really lucky, but the Santana formula obviously had a lot of mileage in it, and the 3rd album is every bit as gripping and exotic-sounding as the first two, with the same overall soundscape that characterised the band that set the original Woodstock festival alight with their Soul Sacrifice - but seems to have an added extra, a kind of X ingredient that transforms it from heavy groove rock with strong Latin roots into something approaching Prog Rock. This is something that was present in the first two albums, but here the band take it further into that kind of mind-reading realm characteristic of great jazz and jazz rock.

And so it is that Batuka throws us straight into the familiar Santana sound, with plenty of cowbells, seriously funky and smooth bass, with a perfectly synchronised guitar-line, then some tasty wacka- wacka seventies style rhythm guitar, and finally the subtle organ layer joins in. Carlos then immediately socks it to us with some speedy lead licks, and the drama builds with small repeated chunks, giving that flavour of an improvised composition, until the groove kicks in full time, and Santana goes off on one - a bit on the bluffy side, but positively dripping with Latin emotion.

The keyboard is then given some air time, lending good drive to the sound, before it's stripped down to percussion and light bass, and the music segues straight into the song No-one to Depend on. Again, no real surprises in the sound and textures, but the build-up technique in the composition is remarkable for 1971. At 1:15 comes a real surprise - the music is broken down, an intense guitar flurry kicks in, and the chorus line is presented, with real emotion. The song from here is a kind of meditation on the words, rather than your standard song structure, which appears to be based somewhat on Soul Sacrifice, until the next broken-down instrumental break and the obligatory Santana solo - in which he shows his versatility and emotional virtuosity well, by relating everything back to the underlying music.

The introduction to Taboo gives no clues as to where the music will be taken, and when the Latin- grooved song kicks in, with Hendrix-influenced background licks, it is in a more relaxed, late-night mood. All the musicians contribute subtly to the instrumental sections, which show dramatic energy taking us on a rollercoaster emotional ride in which everything feels pre-ordained, and yet, as soon as you listen more closely to the music, you realise the natural spontaneity in it all, and feel the unfolding story.

I find Toussaint l'Overture a little unremarkable, after such a strong opening - although it does feature very interesting percussion, tasty breaks, and, of course, stellar lead guitar playing. It is, however, starting to sound more formulated - and goes some way to explaining why this is the last Santana album in this particular Woodstock vein, and why he became more adventurous in his jazz-rock explorations after this.

Everybody's Everything was the second hit from this album (No-one to Depend On was the first), and seems to be a peculiar mix of Booker T and James Brown, infused with that Santana groove. A tad commercial for my taste, but bags of energy, nonetheless.

Guijira is a return to a more typical Santana sound, reminding me quite strongly of Oye Como Va from the previous album, with its soft shuffle sound. Sadly, it's destroyed slightly by an awful piano solo, but when the piano returns to rhythm and texture, we can forgive it somewhat, as some really tasty licks come from it. The trumpet solo is a bit of a surprise, lending a Herb Alpert flavour, but the guitar solo is somewhat unremarkable and noodly.

The opening Hammond of Jungle Strut tantalises - it appears out of nowhere, sends tingles down the spine, then gives way to a funky guitar and bass that seem to re-iterate Jingo (1st album). At 1:48, we are treated to a solo on said instrument - not quite Jimmy Smith or Wynder K Frogg, but we wanted it, and we get it! True to the penchant for varied flavours and textures on this album, the guitar solo that follows begins in a more laid-back vein, and follows a slow build-up with more Hammond - a nice idea, but you don't really get the feeling of ideas being bounced around musicians, more a sense of it's my turn to show off now, and nothing truly interesting comes out of this extended instrumental section, just a collection of short solos. I don't really get a Jungle flavour either - and the strut is more like a swagger.

Everything's Coming Our Way feels a bit of a let down - a rather commercial flavoured song with lyrics of cheese. It's not actually too bad in itself, and, released by a lesser band, would be a very strong and original number (more, and better Hammond playing in here too!) - in fact, it has quite a modern sound to it that makes it seem even more progressive in the literal sense, despite the overall accessibility and hit single flavour.

Then we have the obligatory Santana-stylee exit, a blend of Jingo, Oye Como Va, Soul Sacrifice - all the best bits from the earlier albums, in fact, in Para Los Rumberos. Absolutely no surprises in here, but one to shake your booty to, and strut your funky stuff - but make sure the curtains are closed, OK?

If you only ever buy one Santana album (but why on earth would you?), then this is a great one to start with. It almost negates getting the previous 2, except to reference the sources of the music contained in these grooves. Personally, I find this one the most engaging - but that is also its weakness - that the appeal of its accessibility soon fades to the contempt of familiarity, especially when compared to truly progressive rock music. It's worth owning, but then, so are most late 1960s/early 1970s Santana albums - and if you're even vaguely interested in Progressive music, you simply HAVE to hear at least one, all the way through, several times.

Therefore, I recommend this one - but you could take your pick, really :o).

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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