My introduction to Santana was via his 1999 ‘comeback’ album Supernatural, which was playing absolutely everywhere when I was doing a 2 year round-the-world trip. And I mean everywhere – every Goan beach café, every Bangkok internet hangout, every Malaysian cheap hotel, even the Singaporean taxis (although the first taxi I got into after arriving at Changi airport was far more upmarket and playing Pavarotti and Friends on DVD). We were so subliminally primed to like that record, that it was one of the first three cassettes we bought once we finally had an opportunity to buy music and listen to it whilst travelling. (The other two were Air and Natalie Merchant)
This record however represents Santana’s first peak of fame and is a 1974 collection of some of his biggest hits from the late 60s/early 70s. There’s only 10 tracks on here, but it displays his range and ear for a catchy tune, having created the perfect blend of blues, Latin American rhythms and rock. These are some of the tracks for which he’s still well known today.
The hits include Black Magic Woman, (a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green song), Evil Ways, Everybody’s Everything, and Tito Puente’s classic Oye Como Va. My personal favourite is the sublime Samba Pa Ti which demonstrates his distinctive guitar playing, and reminded me on first listen of Green’s Albatross.
When I first got into ‘rock music’ as a mid-teen, it was Jimi Hendrix and Peter Green who were my go-to blue/rock guitarists, then Clapton, then Jimmy Page. I probably felt that between them they covered the range, so Santana didn’t seem to be offering anything new. I’m not sure that my opinion has changed a great deal on listening to this (a fairly recent record fair purchase) but I will definitely check out some of the early albums from which this compilation draws. The real gems are so often those tracks which aren’t on a ‘greatest hits’ list.
Best Bits: Samba Pa Ti
Genre: Latin-infused Blues-Rock
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