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Santana - Caravanserai CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.22 | 783 ratings

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4 stars Taking musical nods from the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Caravanserai is the final essential album in the extensive Santana discography and is vastly underrated in comparison to its predecessors. It served as a transitional record between the Latin influenced psychedelic prog rock of the first three records to a more ethereal jazz approach. These tracks provide a less distinct structure, trading the track by track presentation with a more cohesive and fuller body of work. With this change in sound also come a shift in Santana's lineup, as this album saw keyboard virtuoso Tom Coster make his first appearance. It would be the last album to feature second guitarist Neal Schon as well as Gregg Rolie who left the band to form Journey. Another part of what makes the elements of this album work so cohesively is the use of two bass players: Tom Rutley on acoustic, Doug Rauch on electric.

The sun drenched atmosphere featured on the cover perfectly conveys the mood of the music on Caravanserai. Each piece moves with the same urgency of prior records but showcases an affirmed appreciation for atmospheric vibe. Tribal drumming is accompanied brilliantly by the swirling organs of Gregg Rolie and adds a compelling layer to the mix. Frequently, this record showcases Carlos Santana doing exactly what he does best, laying down a groovy guitar line that drives the melody forward. Moreso than on previous albums however, he shows restraint, preferring not to dominate the tone of the album with his eccentric style of playing. On opener "Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation," he takes to playing percussion instead.

Caravanserai primarily invokes in the listener an audible journey through a primitive Arabian landscape. We get our first glimpse of the ambiance of the Arabian Desert with an opening of chirping crickets. The sun's rays begin to shine in the form of a lightly fluttering flute movement with chimes that cool the soul. 'Song of the Wind' is an instant standout that showcases Santana's unmatched guitar work. His soulful playing style melds perfectly with the serene textures of the rhythm section. 'All of the Love In the Universe' is conclusively spiritual'it begins with a pulsing bass line that eventually climaxes into an instrumental that boasts an immaculate solo from Carlos and as well as an unforgettable keyboard solo from Rolie's Hammond organ. 'Future Primitive' is a percussion centerpiece that allows the Latin roots of the album rise to the foreground for a few brief minutes of tribal beauty. Once the penultimate track, 'La Fuente Del Rimo' kicks in, we get glimpses of former Santana with chaotic conga beats, the occasional cymbal splash, and an outstanding keyboard solo from Tom Coster. We finally discover the oasis in the desert on the final track, 'Every Step of the Way,' in which a calm percussion intro steadily builds, with the Hammond and guitars giving way to an eventual crescendo that climaxes as we reach our destination.

It is a shame that Santana never revisited their jazzier side as seen on Caravanserai. This album feels the most organic out of all of their bodies of work. It is a sublime experience that takes the listener across desert vistas and on safari through the wild eastern plains. What is truly remarkable though is how well crafted this record is in respect to the work as a whole. Each member exerts every ounce of influence they have and it all works magically together to create a truly captivating and immensely satisfying experience.

Trevere | 4/5 |


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