Monday, October 31, 2011

Santana – Abraxas

The second album of Santana group has been released in September 1970, a little bit more than a year after their debut album. On the new album Abraxas, group still presented quite new face. Their sound, rhythm and style were real groundbreaking combination so shortly it has been named just „Santana style” and copied by many other groups. The beginnings of the style came from San Francisco fusion joining the psychedelic rock of the sixties with some idiomatic motives of latin jazz and rhythmic patterns of salsa, blues and gospel. A lots of inspirations gave this music great variety of meanings and the tittle „Abraxas” shines a light  for connections to esoteric, even some sort of Gnostic ideas.
Literary inspiration of the title came from Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian and short fragment is cited on the back side of the cover: „We stood before it and began to freeze inside from the exertion. We questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it: We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our beloved, called it Abraxas...”. Directly related to this inspiration is cover art featuring Mati Klarwein’s 1961 painting Annunciation. This cover design and Hesse’s works became inspiration for whole generation.
Sound profile of the group in Woodstock era was presented on first two albums. It can be considered in four main aspects – rich and tense guitar solos by Carlos Santana, rhythm and blues Hammond B-3 organ played by Gregg Rolie, vocals in San Francisco psychedelic style and huge rhythm section of bassist Dave Brown, drummer Mike Shrieve plus two conga and percussion players Mike Carrabello and José Chepito Areas.

Santana – Abraxas (1970)

Characteristic feature of first Santana line-up’s music is that nothing is fully obvious. Rhythm section based on sharp, energetic percussion drive by Shrieve’s drums and steady, sometimes even lazy Brown’s bas guitar makes a lots of crossing and syncopated structures but isn’t apparently Latin kind of rock or all the more jazz-rock. It would be enough interesting if it was attempt of being somewhere between styles and cultures. The same with the harmonic structures which sound quite progressive yet they are predominantly blues with some straight adds.
Guitar solos by Carlos Santana were unprecedented in rock music contribution to the style of the group and its true hallmark. His precise and bright sound was counterbalance for dark vibrating Rolie’s Hommond. Clear and very precise guitar phrases became the center of musical narration. Although guitar was in center of rock since it’s very beginning, this kind of playing was something new and original. Great hits of this album were Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen by Peter Green and Gabor Szabo or Oye Como Va by Tito Puente but revolutionary number one hit for decade occured Carlos Santana’s Samba Pa Ti – nice and easy piece with charming phrases and carefully slow and mild accompaniment. It is one of most beautiful melodies in history of rock music, used in endless repetitions and covers. José Feliciano even sung this theme with his own words. In a short time this tune became obligatory for young guitar players and every high school party. On the opposite side of the Santana group’s style was situated Gregg Rolie’s Hope You’re Feeling Better with fiercely intensive rhythm section and one more great guitar solo.

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