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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

SANTANA

By Jeff Tamarkin
Published September 13, 2005

Santana
Columbia/Legacy

With rock en espanol bands ubiquitous today, it may be difficult to grasp just how revolutionary Santana was when they showed up in the late '60s. Equal parts Tito Puente and San Francisco ballroom psychedelia, with a smattering of blues and jazz tossed in, this wasn't your granddaddy's salsa -- nor was it comparable to anything else. Carlos Santana's distinctive upper-register guitar leads simultaneously screamed to the heavens and oozed heartrending melody, organist Gregg Rolie and bassist David Brown projected pure funky soul, and the percussionists' mighty flailing (drummer Michael Shrieve was a boy wonder) created a trancelike rhythmic groove alien to hippie-rock at the time (prime example: the cover of Babatunde Olatunji's "Jingo"). When the largely unknown band took the stage at Woodstock in the newsworthy summer of '69, jaws dropped as feet awoke -- by the time Santana left the stage (and certainly by the time the festival film was released the following year), they were national stars. Legacy's deluxe reissue of Santana's eponymous debut album -- which yielded the top 10 single "Evil Ways," lifted from a Willie Bobo LP from that year remains one of the most mind-numbing introductory efforts ever, and this double-CD package stacked with bonus tracks is the most expansive edition of this classic yet issued. Bolstered by alternate takes (a stunning "Soul Sacrifice") and early demos, as well as the legendary Woodstock performance, it was, and is, nothing less than an essential album by one of the most innovative bands of its time -- or any.