Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles
Live (1-1 -1972)
LIVE CONCERT REVIEW (40 years on……)
Listening to this original concert held at the Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu at the 1st January 1972, one realises why a re-record in a studio was necessary. Neal Schon in my Voices Of Latin Rock book described this show as a ”mosh – a stoned, self-indulgent disaster.”
Listening to this on the popular torrent site Sugarmegs, although not of great audio quality, one is both warmed and perturbed by the strange show.
At times it has the feeling of one of Miles Davis’ mid-1970’s subterranean funk pieces, from such albums such as Agharta, Pangaea or Dark Magus. There is a murky, well intentioned but incoherent aspect to the playing. Some of it is tight but it also meanders greatly and at times loses its way fairly dramatically. Stan Marcum and Ron Estrada were still just about managing affairs and Stan appears in some of those current photographs shown here. (Courtesy of Don Wehr!!)
The set appears as follows………………..
(1) Untitled Jam/Gumbo; This is led by Robert Hogins the organist in Buddy Miles’ current touring band of that time, described by Buddy back then in Ebony Magazine, as the “best band of players he had had up to that point.” There follows, after the initial organ led intro a bass and drum break with Ron Johnson (again from Buddy’s touring band) pumping the bass frenetically and powerfully.
(2) This segues into Gumbo, known by Santana fans from their early live shows and available on the Santana 3 Deluxe Double CD edition, released a few years back. This features breaks in its funk-based outro from Buddy Miles on Drums, Gregg Errico on drums and Coke Escovedo’s distinctive timbale fills.
(3) Layla is an instrumental version of Clapton’s memorable piece, in some ways it has more bite and attack than the original. The organ again leads over a Latinesque 4/4 beat and Neal Schon brings in a very melodic and stinging guitar solo to the proceedings. Then he does his customary step onto the distortion/wah pedal and ups the ante with a screaming and well pitched beautifully executed guitar solo. Carlos is providing strong rhythm. There is also a double drum break with Victor Pantoja overlaying a conga solo. He is exhorted to “keep going” and is joined by Coke Escovedo on timbales again. There is a dramatic cut in the recording here before we rejoin the drum break. The bass comes in heavy to the mix and then we hit the Layla theme again before an abrupt ending.
(4) Little Wing; A nice and slow version of the Hendrix song. There are inaudible vocals from Buddy here but Hogins and Neal Schon are on hand to supply strong thematics to the song’s introduction. There is a loss of audio on this taping and Carlos’ guitar is quite high in the mix. Carlos also plays a little mellow lead at the ending of the song, a really excellent guitar solo and again an abrupt end.
(5) Heavy Funk Piece; This is a lumbering, heavy funky piece again led by Hogin’s organ vamping, He is very prominent in the sound mix and Ron Johnson again provides some funky and pumping bass, Neal Schon is on hand to provide another blistering guitar solo, in his uniquely aggressive manner. Schon’s sound at this point was incredibly exciting at this young stage of his career. I personally think he and Carlos, never sounded better in terms of their respective guitar sounds. (Peavey amps and Gibson Les Pauls).
(6) Respect Yourself vamp; an unusual vamp around the Staples Singers well-known song here with nice funky bass by Johnson (My friend Neftali Santiago, who played drums with Mandrill, said Ron Johnson was/is still around, possibly in the Los Angeles area). This has a medium tempo; again there is an inaudible vocal from Buddy with Robert Hogins driving the songs structure along. Neal wails again but unfortunately this mix makes his guitar outing inaudible.
(7) Intro/Funky Shuffle; which absolutely sounds like it was made up on the spot at the show. It’s a real train wreck with Robert Hogins noodling over the top (literally). BJ blows away on the bass too. Neal drops some desultory blues vamps into the proceedings over a drum battering ram by Errico and Miles.
(8) Sing A Simple Song; Yes, it’s the Sly Stone funk hit from that period. Mid – paced and funky Carlos and Neal drop some nice funky guitar licks with added horn fills by both Hadley Caliman and Luis Gasca, on sax and trumpet respectively. They stay reasonably faithful to Sly’s original and there is some funky feral guitar by Neal plus another sharp audio break in the recording.
(9) Back to the concert with some stoned noodling, Neal takes off for some fluid guitar but the audio is not good here, there is also some commotion on the tape, about the actual taping, with someone saying “I’m the drummer’ and “Let’s go!” Very random jamming ensues here (similar in style to Freeform Funkified Filth (the 25-minute jam) released on the second side of the Columbia album. There are conga drums playing in the background also.
(10) Another jam style piece that is hard to tell whether it is a part of the last sprawling piece with Neal the tempo picks up dramatically and as you would expect from musicians of this calibre, there are moments of telepathy interspersed with not hitting the mark.
(11) Funk based romp; Neal and Carlos laying down a funky, heavy, rocking riff. There is a drum and timbale break similar to the one between Marbles and Lava on the recorded album. Hogins organ playing is presented over the top of the ensemble.
(12) Marbles; this is definitely a different version to the recorded album, for one it misses the spliced crowed cheering so prevalent on the record.
There is a different timbale/drum break but Coke Escovedo readily acquits himself with some tasty timbale fills.
Lava; Again this is a different take to the studio recreations in the USA.
OR they have put new overdubs on this one, it is close to the recording though. It has a slamming drum backing with Hogins tripping on the Hammond B3.
(13) “Time”; This is possibly called “time” with Buddy Miles singing a slowish tempo blues song, the vocals are not too clear. More subtle style guitar her by Neal, clean and fluid in this muddy sounding soundboard or on-stage recording.
(14) Evil Ways; different version to the album, different organ solo at the intro and further jamming after the first bridge and chorus, again different to the record. It also differs with Gasca and Caliman offering different high register sax/trumpet flourishes and another take on Hadley Caliman’s tenor saxophone solo, on the double time tempo shift at the end. Carlos also weighs in towards the end with some jazz-inflected, piercing licks on guitar.
(15) Faith Interlude; Some difference to the record but Carlos’ solo is almost note-for-note the same as the record. Could this have been an overdub, it is hard to say? Like the album it is short and sweet, less than two minutes in length.
So, an album which although selling well; was not well liked by its performers. I see it as a more accessible precursor to the later murky Afro-like extrapolations of the mid-70’s Miles Davis bands, with their emphasis on one/two note jamming and long swampy funky interludes; that were as astonishing as they were uncompromising. Even today. I don’t think people have really come to terms sonically with the crazy, coked-up and edgy spaced music presented by Miles i that mid 1970′s period. Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles Live, today sounds like an album that a current jam would try to make but possibly fail? Players like these maybe exist today but the rawness and the edge seems to be missing (apart from bands like The Roots, to name one for example). Culled from the best of Buddy Miles’ band and from 1971 era Santana (Neal, Carlos, Coke E) plus sessioneers like Hadley Caliman and Luis Gasca, plus the added percussion of Mike Carabello and James Mingo Lewis, gave this a firepower sadly lacking during the following jazz-fusion era plus in today’s more sanitised markets. Even Carlos’s band these days has incredible chops and precision but the day for that utter gleaming fire appears to be past. So a botched experiment (check Free Form Funkified Filth, for example) but an exciting one that reveals a moment in time, when musicians had little discipline in terms of personal boundaries and some bad habits but an instinctive fire that pushed them thru into areas musically that session musicians, on the whole could not reach.
Gregg Errico; who had recently left the Sly Stone family, remembers that at the overdub stage back in the USA studios; that his was practically the only “live” track left from the actual first live recording in Haiwaii
Tags: Buddy Miles, Diamond Head Crater, Honolulu, Neal Schon