Monday, January 20, 2003


Having recently glimpsed the opening moments of the latest UNICEF concert, it is sad to observe how far Carlos Santana has been absorbed into the rock-schlock industry: one rather unadventurous solo on a pappy Latino-pop number was all it amounted to. The man was undoubtedly at his best in the early ‘70s, with a trilogy of albums (‘Welcome’, ‘Borboletta’ and ‘Caravanserai’ between 1973 and 1975) that explored the jazz-fusion ‘world music’ space which soon became overcrowded with talent and, it has to be said, poor imitation. Airto Moreira, Flora Purim and Leon Thomas are some of Santana’s collaborators from this earlier era, and John McLaughlin is strong among the influences (see also ‘Love, Devotion and Surrender’, where Coltrane and Miles loom large – and Billy Cobham and Larry Young lend able support). The regular band members circa ‘Caravanserai’ were, I recall, Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie and Mike Shrieve. There’s nothing like the innovative force of Weather Report here, naturally. But Santana has a language of his own and it’s well worth visiting in its prime, before lazy Americanisms choked his voice somewhat. As the man himself asked on ‘Electric Guitar’ – “do you hear the voices you left behind?”

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