Columbia Records, 1970


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Too often these days, I'm seeing bands from the Woodstock generation being destroyed by their greatest enemy - time.

Some bands like Quill were almost immediately forgotten after all the garbage was picked up from Max Yasgur's farm. Others, like Ten Years After, have just been forgotten by time.

Then there is the story of Santana. Coming from out of nowhere, they made a big splash at Woodstock, and then went on to release their at-the-time groundbreaking second disc, Abraxas. But what was special (and, judging from the painting of the naked woman on the cover, controversial) in 1970 is tired and weak in 1997.

Oh, sure, the two hits off this one are still very enjoyable. "Black Magic Woman," the cover of the Fleetwood Mac song, still blows me away, and is some of Carlos Santana's best guitar playing. The merge into "Gypsy Queen" adds a Latin flavor to the track that sounds like it belonged there all the time. And Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" is great, though I wish that Santana had just cut loose on this one instead of playing more controlled, rhythmic solos.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But the remainder of Abraxas seems to rely on creating a Latin feel to the music rather than letting the music do the talking. The organ of Gregg Rolie sounds incredibly dated, and even on a cut like "Oye Como Va," is simplistic to the point of annoyance. Where he could have been making a unique voice in the background during the chorus, he ssticks to a "duh-duh---duh-duh-duh" rhythm (hey, you try to make organ noises without a keyboard) that sounds so out of place in that portion of the song.

The opening track, "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts," tries to set a gentle mood, but the jazz feel of the song sounds forced, distracting from the performance. Luckily for Santana, they follow this up with the two classic-rock hits previously talked about.

The rest of Abraxas then falls into shambles. "Incident At Neshabur" is the closest the band comes to cohesiveness, though even this tends to ramble. The remaining tracks, including "Se A Cabo," "Samba Pa Ti" and "El Nicoya" fail to light the speakers on fire the way Santana did in his band's brief set at Woodstock.

And the two Rolie compositions, "Mother's Daughter" and "Hope You're Feeling Better," don't help matters much. I don't know if the problem is the songwriting or a poor attempt at adding a rock flavor to the Latin rhythms, but these two tracks fall apart quickly.

It's not that I'm against Latin music; I think Gypsy Kings are one of the genre's most underrated bands, and I often put one of their discs in one of the players scattered throughout the Pierce Memorial Archives whenever I need a pick-me-up. But Santana, from all of my recollections, has been spotty on vinyl, and Abraxas is no exception.

And Santana's guitar playing has its moments, but from what I hear on this one, it sounds like he's more comfortable in the role of rhythm guitarist. His leads lack the development of many other players, tending to concentrate on just a limited range of notes. Even that wouldn't be so bad, if he could make them do more than just plink away on the track.

The band will live in the hearts of classic rock fans for "Black Magic Woman," and for good reason, but Abraxas is a relic of time that is better left to the ages.

Rating: D-

User Rating: C


I cannot believe a website is so flimsy that an accidental submission of a rating is preserved and I do not see any way to change it. Well, I rate this an A, like most people would, or five stars. Who rates this below four stars? It is a classic. Give me a break, "Incident of Neshabur" displays the Santana group's (of that time) musical versatility and does not ramble. "Samba Pa Ti" is a precursor of "Europa" and "Flor d"luna (Moonflower)" that arguably deserves more credit for its Latin sweetness than those two similar sounding tunes because it came first. "Se a Cabo" is excellent: good, sleek pop rock that shows an effective, ear-friendly sound that disappeared after Santana's 3d album (I am not including the interlude of the jazzy albums of the early to mid- '70s, which are much underrated, but a different sound). "Mother's Daughter" is better than "Hope You're Feeling Better," but both again have that magic, rhythmic appealing flavor of the early Santana sound. The other thing the reviewer fails to acknowledge is realities: Whenever Santana plays in concert, it is the songs on this that everyone wants to hear, not '80s onwards, and when they play these songs everyone perks up. That is why his comment about the time factor is so wrong. Anyone knows that the reviewer is so out of the mainstream that it brings into question whether this should even have been published.

© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.