Santana kicks ass. There, I said it.
Unlike Darkness (#150), I loved listening to this album. Number 149, ladies and gentlemen, is a great, energetic, seemingly legendary self-titled album by the band Santana, which at that time consisted of Carlos Santana on guitar (obviously) and vocals, Gregg Rolie on organ, piano, and vocals, David Brown on bass guitar, and on percussion, Michael Carabello and Jose Areas, and finally Michael Shrieve on drums.
Santana’s debut album was released in 1969 when Carlos Santana was just 23 years old. Lucky for them, they had a chance to play at Woodstock before the album even released. Check out this clip of ‘Soul Sacrifice’ live at Woodstock (the original recording is 11 minutes and 39 seconds, but this is a few minutes shorter), with a long and self-indulgent (but deserved) drum solo by Michael Shrieve.
I actually listened to the 1999 re-issue of this album, which contains three extra live tracks from their Woodstock performance at the end (Savor, Soul Sacrifice and Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries). Here’s the original track listing on the 1969 Colombia release.
- Evil Ways
- Shades of Time
- You Just Don’t Care
- Soul Sacrifice
So what to say about this album? Where to start, I guess. Watching the ‘Soul Sacrifice’ performance from the link above should give a pretty good idea of what this album is all about. The first record of Santana has heavy rock-influence, but you still hear the latin rhythms and influences in the percussion. The percussion drives the entire album, which starts with a lead-in on ‘Waiting’. It acts as a track that builds anticipation (much like the name of the track suggests…a feeling of waiting).
What surprised me is that I recognized quite a few of the tracks on the album without knowing that I knew them. I think this might happen more than I think as I listen to the next 148 albums. Anyway, ‘Evil Ways’, the second track on the album, I immediately recognized (and love). This song is a classic, and made it to the top 10 in the U.S. Billboard chart when it was released. The other track I recognized was ‘Jingo’, which was the first single released off the album, but never got a huge response, as far as I know.
The sound of Carlos Santana’s guitar is very distinct. If you hear it in any of his newer albums, or in a duo with Michelle Branch or Nickelback, or Rob Thomas, you know its Santana. There’s a provocative, rock-latin-blues sound to his guitar that distinguishes him from many other guitarists. That sound is very clear on the 1969 album, too, and even if someone didn’t know who they were listening to, but was familiar with Santana, I think they would recognize the sound immediately.
Santana didn’t end up staying together very long after this album. My understanding is that they started to get pulled in different directions by the music, and also by different lifestyle choices, including substance abuse. Santana was fascinated by jazz and blues music and wanted to explore more, some of the other band members wanted to stick with a rock-influenced sound, since that was where they got their start. After their third album release, the band disintegrated. Still, what’s characteristic from the 1969 album and also today is Santana’s distinct guitar sound.
This album was a blast to listen to. Its got energy and drive, and also variety. A track like ‘Treat’ initially slows the album down so you can take a deep breath before it continues back into a high-energy jam with latin-infused beats and sexy guitar riffs. I love it. I have a new appreciation for Santana from listening to this album, that’s for sure. And how cool is it that they really got their start from performing at Woodstock in ’69? Awesome.
I think I’ll continue to this album for a while. I don’t think I’ll delete it (like I probably will with Darkness. Have I mentioned I don’t like that album yet? Okay, I’ll get off it.
Onto the next album! I don’t even know what it is. But I’ll check…and then I’ll listen.