Review Summary: A smashing debut! Anyone interested in Santana should hear this.
To speak of Santana is to speak of guitarist/founder/frontman Carlos Santana. While this may sound redundant, to truly understand Santana's music, it is necessary to understand the man. For Santana is easily the most relevant Mexican-American musician of the last 4 decades. For the purposes of this review, it is essential to sneak a peek into Santana's Latin background.
Being a man of Mexican roots, Santana had strong sensibilities towards Latin music in general. He was particularly interested in salsa music, Latin Jazz, and several Cuban genres such as guaguanco, guaracha and the like. These influences would be married to an equal fondness for U.S. Jazz, as well as blues. But Santana was equally fond of rock music as well, so bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and several others would have a major impact on him.
Everybody who hasn't been living under a rock is familiar with Santana's reputation on guitar; but the rest of the team is impressive as well. With Chepito Areas on percussion, Gregg Rolie on keyboards, David Brown on bass and Michael Shrieve on drums, the band certainly was pretty much "Rock N' Roll's Dream Team", seeing as they display clever musicianship through the record. They mesh together their talents in a uniquely cohesive manner, undoubtedly a rare commodity in rock music; this results in a jarring experience which leaves you wondering if this is a rock band or a Latin Jazz group.
This first album would certainly establish Santana's style in a rather definitive manner. While many other bands go through several stepping stones before achieving their peak, Santana begins his golden age with this amazing album. The song "Evil Ways" exhibits fine musicianship, and has memorable lyrics as well (if somewhat sexist):
When I come home, baby
My house is dark and my pots are cold
You hangin' 'round, baby
With Jean and Joan and a who knows who
I'm gettin' tired of waitin' and foolin' around
I'll find somebody, that won't make me feel like a clown
This can't go on, yeah yeah yeah
"Jingo" is another mayor highlight. It begins with some fine percussions, and eventually Santana's guitar comes in with it's well known tone. The use of timbales and congas in the song not only evidence the the general influence of Latin music, but it conjures Africa to mind (not to mention the "Jingo Ba, Ba Go Ba" chorus). "Persuasion", which is only two minutes and thirty seven seconds long, has an interesting riff, rather bluesy vocals, and a fine use of keyboards. Santana really seems to be having a lot of fun on this one. The closer is the epic instrumental "Soul Sacrifice", which overall leaves the listener satisfied with its fine use of keyboards, percussion and guitar work.
Santana's first album might not be his best, but it's a heck of an entrance. He accomplishes quite a spectacle, delighting listeners with each wonderful song. This album is a class act, and is a must-listen for anyone who is curious about Santana's music.