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Santana - Abraxas CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.23 | 587 ratings

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4 stars The dreaded sophomore jinx did not bother to screw with Santana. It didn't even glance in their direction. If anyone thought that their debut was some kind of fluke novelty they were sadly mistaken for "Abraxas" went on to sell over 4 million units and hold the number one position on the album charts for six weeks. While still wise enough to know the importance and necessity of producing hit singles, this time they started to show signs that they were interested in adding a jazz element to their spicy mix of styles.

The mysterious melding of wind chimes, piano and guitar is a great way to build tension and expectations and conga player Mike Carabello's "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts" does just that. Greg Rolie's tastefully understated Rhodes piano chording is perfect for the atmospheric mood they create on this instrumental. Someone obviously did their homework and realized that Peter Green (of Fleetwood Mac) had a catchy song that was just waiting for someone to cover and have a huge hit with. "Black Magic Woman" has such an easy-flowing, danceable rhythm and Carlos Santana's supremely melodic guitar lines make the tune irresistible. The spectacular and genius transition into double- time for Gabor Szabo's "Gypsy Queen" just makes it that much more exciting. Next you get Tito Puente's infectious "Oye Como Va" with dynamic percussion, fluid Hammond organ and stinging guitar creating some very hot salsa. As a single it climbed to #13 and is an extremely rare instance where a song not sung in English was a hit in the USA. I don't think it would have made any difference if it had been sung in Swahili, to be honest. "Incident at Neshabur" shows you that Santana's future would find them exploring deeper and deeper into jazz/rock fusion. After a jazzy beginning it segues into a heavy rock riff and then blends the two into a high spirited movement where Rolie's organ work shines. Halfway through it drops into a peaceful spell with Carlos using controlled feedback on his guitar to great effect before guest musician Alberto Gianquinto (who co-wrote the song with Mr. Santana) adds some eloquent piano. It's the high point of the album for me. Percussionist Chepito Areas' "Se A Cabo" sounds like it starts up where "Soul Sacrifice" left off on the first album. The guitar is great but the individual performances on congas and timbales are out of this world. The band still had a foot in the rock and roll arena, however, and Greg Rolie's "Mother's Daughter" and "Hope You're Feeling Better" are both decent rockers and he sings them well but they sound slightly out of place here. Another gem on this album is Carlos' "Samba Pa Ti," a gorgeous instrumental where he allows his guitar to sing a delicate melody over some soulful Hammond organ, creating as fine a love song as you'll ever hear. Even after the pace picks up the guitar soars like an eagle to the end. It's an inspiring piece of music. Chepito Areas contributes the final tune, "El Nicoya," where he, drummer Michael Shrieve and Mike Carabello put on a percussion clinic that will tear your head off.

In addition to all this great music add a stunning album cover and you have an instant classic on your hands. While their exciting and legendary debut seemed a little raw, "Abraxas" showed they desired to make a more deliberate and well-crafted attempt to create a work of art. It's not perfect by any means but Santana was still in the process of finding their niche in the music world while turning it upside down in the process. All in all it's just a damn good album.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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