Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Santana I

   Since the beginning San Francisco has been the cultural and intellectual center of American West. Especially in postwar era this metropolitan city was radiating with creative ideas and outstanding personalities. One of most respected musical names came out from Bay Area in late sixties and increasingly popular until today is Santana, even if average listener doesn’t associate this name with the city. Some people confuse the name of the group with the name of its leader who recorded also independently as Carlos Santana, who has formed in 1967 as Carlos Santana Blues Band. Santana’s songs performed by the band were the ticket to the world of universal appreciation.
   And name of Santana shortly became one of most recognizable names in musical business. Success did not come right away. After their first audition Chet Helms, who was a cultural figure in San Francisco of the hippie era, stated that there is no room on rock scene for the Latin rock. He advised Santana that it would be better if he can keep his work with the dishes in Tick Tock’s Drive-In.
   Two years later musicians were appointed to play Woodstock festival and CBS, anticipating their success recorded in May the debut album of Santana and in one month finishing editorial process. Santana performed August 16, the second day of the festival, for huge crowd. The result was almost instant success of the debut album released shortly after festival, picking at number 4 on Billboard 200. Although first single Jingo didn’t met supposed feedback, second single Evil Ways was included in U.S. Top Ten. After thirty years Santana hits 150th position in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 500 greatest albums of all time.

Santana (1969)

   End years of sixties decade were the time when revolutionary recordings and artistic events were released almost every month. And it’s really hard to say if the first Santana album could be heard without Woodstock connection. But after festival announced as „3 Days of Peace and Music” even subtle association with this event gave the album power of political statement. Santana’s music was strongly connected with Mexican rhythms and melodic idiom and in context of antiwar and antiestablishment demonstration new idea o cross-cultural connection has the power of demonstration for freedom. And this is primary value fusion music has its roots. Later the idea of music based on explicit cross-cultural or multicultural links has been called „world music” and specific sound of Santana group was copied by dozens of other groups and musicians.
   Instrumental composition Waiting opens A-Side with great organ solo by Gregg Rolie and guitar solo by Carlos Santana, making basic exposition of group’s style. And since this very first piece it’s more fusion music than just Latin rock. All elements from Afro-Cuban beat to sharp, electrizing dialogue between soloists are melted in the whole which is almost homogenous. And almost gives some place for individual character of every artist.
   In Evil Ways we have another solo sequence, blues organ and ecstatic guitar are enriching this hit song. Some songs are clearly following the psychedelic style of San Francisco, like Shades of Time where only thick Cuban percussion section makes listener remember he is listening modern Latino rock. The same in Persuation where vocals and solo instruments are is perfectly in style of late sixties rhythm and blues. There is also piece perfectly fitting white blues of late sixties Just You Don’t Care with great solos and vocals of Santana and Rolie.
   What characterizes this music is explosive emotionalism and trance rhythmic continuity. This are very clear factors in completely instrumental Savor, for ending album Soul Sacrifice and partly vocal Jingo. Also in Treat after blues piano introduction group is creating strong rhythm line. This way of playing in upcoming years was treated simply as Santana style. And the first album of the group together with Santana’s performance in Woodstock were just fragments of basic floor for fusion music and crossover developing in next decades.

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