ALBUM: “Abraxas” by Santana
RELEASE YEAR: 1970
LABEL: Columbia Records
BEST TRACKS: “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” “Hope You’re Feeling Better” and “Samba Pa Ti”
There exists few music groups who managed to combine so many genres of music better than Santana. Though the original group first came into being in 1966, their first brush with true fame came at Woodstock in 1968. Carlos Santana, front-man, founder, and the only consistent member of the band since its formation, was a mystery to the world before he was thrust onstage last-minute at the hands of his manager, a man named Billy Graham who was organizing the iconic festival.
In a seemingly impossible combination of jazz, funk, blues, rock, and Latin music, “Abraxas” emerged. Originally released in 1970, it was Santana’s second studio album after the massive success of their first, “Santana.” Carlos Santana and his band introduced Latin music to the classic rock scene in ways nobody had seen before. “Abraxas” was no exception. Searing guitar riffs overlap the sounds of bongos and jazz pianos to create a sound that was truly revolutionary for the time. With psychedelic rock being very much a white man’s arena in the early ’70s, Santana was a breath of fresh air for all to experience the fusion of Latin music and rock n’ roll.
“Black Magic Woman,” one of Santana’s most heralded songs, turned Peter Green’s (Fleetwood Mac) bluesy classic into a samba you just can’t help dancing to. In a cover of Tito Puente’s hit, “Oye Como Va,” Santana adds his own spin with a funky piano line. “Hope You’re Feeling Better,” the second to last song on “Abraxas,” goes in a completely different direction, sounding more like a song from Deep Purple than a Latin-fusion band.
Overall, “Abraxas” will always be one of my favorite albums because of how diverse and experimental it is. It’s a great testament to the incredible exploration into music that was happening in the ’60s and ’70s. Give it a listen!
– DJ Butter