Santana 3 or the Third Album, as it is also known, is a primal masterpiece, filled with some of Santana’s best music. The ensemble playing is freer and more fluid and the band embarked on darker, deeper, more mysterious grooves.
Santana’s San Franciscan Mission District based music, had no parallels, it wasn’t salsa, it wasn’t bugaloo, and it wasn’t straight ahead blues or rock. It contained elements of all this music but totally existed in it’s own universe, both re-defining Latino music that had gone before (Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barretto, Richie Valens, Cal Tjader etc) and creating a totally contemporary definition of what it meant to be the vanguard for a new, emerging Latino culture.
Santana 3 is the final part of the effortless trilogy, the original band brought to the international music scene.
Their meteoric rise to fame, with their stunning appearance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, and the subsequent release of their first recording Santana, galvanized not only the festival audience, putting Latin rhythms on the world map, but significantly, Santana also positioned themselves in the arc of USA music history, as a potent, representing, first wave musical force for young, aspiring Latinos in the USA.
The group’s core lineup remained with Carlos Santana (Guitar, Vocals) Gregg Rolie (Keyboards, Vocals) David Brown (Bass) Mike Carabello (Congas) Jose Chepito Areas (Timbales, Congas) and Michael Shrieve (Drums). Santana’s openness to guests and allowing others to share the spotlight brought in two important additions.
Most importantly, the fifteen-year-old guitar whiz Neal Schon. Shrieve and Rolie discovered the fiery Schon, playing in a band called Old Davis at the Poppycock Club in Palo Alto. Carlos, although established as a guitar phenomenon, had no anxiety about the young Schon coming in. In fact, the two together pushed each other to new heights. Remembers Shrieve, “ God knows how Neal felt, coming into the Santana band with Carlos. Neal brought a young fire into the mix and he also picked up on Carlos’ melodicism. Neal was a burner and he could take things really high. Carlos and Neal shared a lot of the same gifts.”
The other newcomer to the ensemble, Thomas “Coke” Escovedo, was another Mission based percussionist (originally playing with Pete Escovedo, as The Escovedo Brothers). Coke was asked to tour with the band in early 1971, due to Chepito Areas, their dynamic, and impossibly talented Nicaraguan timbalero, suffering a sudden and almost fatal brain aneurysm. Coke was brought in to the band, after they had tried out Willie Bobo, (A percussionist and band leader, from New York’s Spanish Harlem, who was a major influence on the Santana group, supplying their first smash hit “Evil Ways”) for the February 1971, Soul To Soul Independence Day Concerts in Accra, Ghana, in Africa.
The recording began mostly at night at the newly opened Columbia Studios on San Francisco’s Folsom Street. Santana were ensconced in Studio B and the recording took shape, partly from long jamming sessions and also songs that had been formulated thru more structured means. Chepito Areas made the sessions, he had made a miraculous recovery; re-appearing with his astonishing musical chops intact. As the band ascended the heights of super stardom, the excesses associated with the music scene in those riotous times had increased as well. The fact that this record is so coherent, and musically cohesive, speaks volumes for the group’s unique musical chemistry.
“Batuka” is the funky opening cut, showing off the feral side of Neal Schon’s guitar work. Behind a backdrop of Carlos, Gregg and David’s ensemble parrying, the percolating rhythm section sets up a cowbell-led pattern that introduces Schon’s wild guitar work.
Gregg Rolie recalls, “We played “Batuka” with Zubin Mehta and the L.A. Philharmonic, for the Bell Telephone TV Hour. They had sent us a taped piece from Leonard Bernstein to learn”.
Coke and Carabello brought in part of the tune “No One To Depend On”, which was in some elements related to an earlier Willie Bobo tune called “Spanish Grease”. They collaborated with Rolie at his Mill Valley home. Rolie wrote the thunderous middle section, and replete with it’s rolling funk-rock riffs this became an instant crowd favourite. This was the second single and demonstrated Santana’s unique take on cha-cha-cha.
“Taboo” was a song Gregg Rolie played frequently at rehearsals until the band developed the sultry piece into the atmospheric ambient finished recording. Carlos’ guitar and Rolie’s vocals intertwine in an ethereal mix until the outro builds to a scorching climax courtesy of Neal Schon’s piercing fretwork.
Here we see Santana using the studio more as an aural instrument itself. “No One to Depend On” finishes with delayed backwards echo and “Taboo” punches its way thru its climax, with a forceful big sound. The sound is enhanced, more open, with studio effects used in an integrated setting. Eddie Kramer, who worked closely as Jimi Hendrix’s producer was on hand to engineer some of the songs but the finished credits went to Glen Kolotkin and the Santana musicians.
“Toussaint L’Ouverture” (named for the Haitian revolutionary by the radical Mission based pianist Alberto Gianquinto) is a pinnacle in Santana’s recorded history. A towering piece that had been jammed from the first album days, Toussaint smokes furiously and features ecstatic soloing from Carlos on it’s fervent intro followed by hot percussion breaks by Carabello and Chepito. The finale is an intense build with wailing breaks by Rolie, Schon and Santana until it’s abrupt end. Deafening silence remains, echoing musical magnitude.
“Everybody’s Everything” was the first single release and has a soul-based vibe with added texture by the East Bay’s Tower of Power’s horn section it is also notable for a crazed wah-wah pedal driven solo by Schon pushing Chepito’s bubbling drum track even further.
“Guajira” is a Santana classic, Shrieve loved Carlos’ beautiful piercing guitar on this cut.
“This is some of my all-time favourite playing by Carlos, starting with Chepito’s bass intro, Carlos’ playing is exquisite, the way he plays over the time change from 4/4 to 6/8, it’s still my favorite music”. Rico Reyes from the neighbourhood supplied a memorable soul filled Spanish vocal and co-wrote the song with David Brown and Chepito in Hawaii.
On “Guajira,” Gregg Rolie was open to a salsa piano solo proffered by Mario Ochoa, another seasoned Latino musician from the earlier generation. “Jungle Strut “was a hip Gene Ammons saxophone soul-jazz instrumental, on which Bernard Purdie, the hip funk drummer of that time originally played. Shrieve was exploring the outer edges of funk with David Garibaldi (the sensational drummer from Tower Of Power) and Santana used it as another vehicle for multi soloing, over a boiling percussion section.
The penultimate track rounding out the recording was “Everything Is Coming Our Way”, a sensitive Carlos song, in contrast to, but also complimentary to all the preceding music. Gregg Rolie with guidance from Carlos supplies a swirling Hammond organ solo that helps resolve the aching vocal by Carlos himself. Coke Escovedo brought in Tito Puente’s “Para Los Rumberos” to the sessions and the furiously driven performance features Luis Gasca on hot trompeta flourishes, ending the album on a high note.
The bonus tracks are a further snapshot of the experimental Santana band, “Gumbo” is a ferocious crowd pleaser, complete with a dual guitar funk interlude, which allowed Carabello and David Brown to do some tambourine propelled dancing onstage.
Mike Carabello attests to “Gumbo”, being influenced by both Sly Stone and Dr John’s Gris Gris album. “We were dedicated to being different, “Gumbo” was a soup of each person’s musical flavours”
“Folsom Street”, named for the new Columbia Studios at Number 1, was never played live and is a rarity with a loping rhythm and a solid band performance. “Bambele Bambeyo” is pure Santana trance music. Aided by Rico Reyes on vocals and Victor Pantoja on congas, the percussion is sublime. With it’s chants, the band takes us all the way back to Africa. Carlos provides free-floating guitar atmospherics, at least eight minutes into the session.
The second bonus disc sees the original Santana captured as the last act on the last night at the Fillmore West, as Bill Graham so aptly puts it, ‘What better way, than to close with the sounds from the streets, Santana!”
The third album was given it’s first airing here and as the sun set on a generation with the Fillmore’s closing, the Santana band closed the auditorium with a powerful, ragged and passionate show. Most of the above is here, the band slams thru their set but with a one-off version of “In A Silent Way”, written by Joe Zawinul and made famous by Miles Davis. Their version heats the song up and Carlos and Neal snarl and maul with Brown’s bass rumbling throughout. Chepito’s metallic timbales slice thru the frenzied haze with the precision he was famous for. Santana ran into problems shortly after, constant touring, plus mismanagement, with subsequent disagreements on musical direction crippled one of the truly great music acts.
Times changed for these musical revolutionaries, caught up in a roller-coaster ride lasting just three or so years. However, the years have been good to the original Santana’s legacy, with their inspired music standing the test of time by remaining timeless.
Jim McCarthy (with Ron Sansoe) is the author of Voices Of Latin Rock,
an in-depth look at Santana and the Latin Rock revolution.
(Published by Hal Leonard Corp).
This piece originally was the CD liner noted for the
2 x CD Sony/Legacy Extended Edition
Of Santana 3 or the Third album. (2005)
Tags: Carlos Santana, David Brown, Gregg Rolie, Jose Chepito Area, Michael Shrieve, Mike Carabello, Mission District