Columbia, 1977

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on March 18, 1997]

Blasting out of San Francisco's burgeoning Fillmore scene onto the international stage at Woodstock, Carlos Santana and his ever-changing band of sidemen set a standard for Latin-jazz-rock fusion that has rarely been matched. The originality of their sound—blistering guitar work from Carlos over layers of driving Latin percussion and the jazz-fusion keyboards of first Gregg Rolie and then Tom Coster—catapulted them to success early and ensured them of a rich legacy of memorable music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That said, Moonflower isn't an obvious choice as one of the band's seminal albums. The first two, Santana and Abraxas, are the ones on the lips of most people, because they were so raw and electrifyingly original, and because they contain the definitive studio versions of classics like "Evil Ways" and "Black Magic Woman."

That's all well and good, but Moonflower is that somewhat unique concoction, a greatest hits/live/studio double album bonanza. On the original double LP, each side contained one or two new studio compositions, followed by two or three live cuts featuring some of the band's best early songs; on this double-CD set, the sequence is retained, bouncing you back and forth between the studio and the stage.

What greets the listener in the end are a couple of memorable studio numbers (notably the hit "She's Not There," featuring some of Santana's fieriest guitar playing and precision percussion work from Pete Escovedo, and the title tune, a gorgeous instrumental highlighted by Santana's soaring, delicately phrased solos), along with a heaping helping of great concert music. The live dance-party which is "Dance Sister Dance (Baila Mi Hermana)" is worth it alone, without even mentioning this album's knockout live version of "Black Magic Woman" or the classic pull-put-the-stops "Soul Sacrifice," featuring some of the most furiously melodic drum-and-guitar interplay of the decade.

"Evil Ways," "Oye Como Va" and one or two others would have been valuable additions to this list, but the album still stands as an highly listenable collection of dynamic, intensely rhythmic music. Like Carlos Santana, it's one of a kind, and should be savored as such.

Rating: B+

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