I saw the Woodstock movie, Santana killed with "Soul Sacrifice", but although I liked "Evil Ways" I didn’t buy the debut, I only had so much money.

So, months later, when I was a freshman at college and everybody was buying albums to evidence their identity, I didn’t purchase the newly released "Abraxas" either.

But I heard it emanating from Muddy Waters’s dorm room.

That’s what you did back then, you studied with the music blaring. Which might have been why I usually went to the library, then again, people talked there too. But really, I just wanted to get out of the dorm.

Still, while I was spinning "After The Gold Rush" during my off time, Muddy was playing two albums I became enamored of, Lee Michaels’s "Barrel" and "Abraxas".

And in each case, it was one track that closed me.

Off "Barrel" it was "What Now America".

Off "Abraxas" it was "Mother’s Daughter".

I know, I know, the single was "Black Magic Woman", no one ever talks about "Mother’s Daughter", but it had an infectious sound I just could not get enough of, my opinion on Santana changed instantly, the band went from one of the pack to necessary. "Abraxas" is their apotheosis.

"Mother’s Daughter"

It’s the organ intro, like Felix Cavaliere getting high and jamming late at night in the Haight. Meanwhile, there’s the bass dancing intermittently underneath. And then the chunky electric guitar riff, which cuts to the bone as the Latin percussion fills out the track.

And then, thirty seconds in, you go for a wild ride! It’s as if the roller coaster has crested the initial big hill and you’re speeding down the rails at the limits of control. This is the sound that made Santana famous. Alvin Lee could play faster, the English cats were about dancing all over the fretboard, but Carlos was all about sustain!

And the verse finally begins a full minute in. This song was not built for the radio, it was built just for you, the album listener.

And the guitar accents make you scrunch your face and then you’re back on the roller coaster and if this doesn’t make you feel thrilled to be alive, you’re no friend of mine.

And when the song modulates up and breaks down and then tears ass after three minutes in, you just cannot believe it could get better, everybody’s dialed in, you’re pulling into the station, you’re whipping out your quarter to go on this ride again.


"Incident At Neshabur"

The stinging guitar has you banging your head. And the jazzy interlude is unforeseen. If only Carlos would stop being so debonair and whip out this sound at Bonnaroo, he’d truly be embraced by today’s music lovers. If he once more made it about music instead of hits.

This instrumental is just an album cut, but it’s my second favorite track on "Abraxas". Maybe because of the way all the musicians are so locked in, you can see them staring into each other’s face, afraid to make a mistake.

"Hope You’re Feeling Better"

In Hepburn Hall, everybody wanted to play the first side of "Abraxas", but I always liked the second side best. "Hope You’re Feeling Better" is related to "Mother’s Daughter", they’re cut from the same cloth, but "Hope You’re Feeling Better" is intense in a different way. It’s the over-emoted vocal.

But when it all breaks down about 1:45 in, you’re unprepared for the respite, which is introspective, positively post-coital.

And be sure to stay through the end, which is one of the best finishes in rock and roll, they’re firing on all cylinders, and then they just STOP!

Once again, WHEW!

"Singing Winds, Crying Beasts"

Usually album openers are in your face.

But this sounds like sunrise in the desert. It begins so quiet, slow and majestic. You’re not sure whether to be wowed or on guard. The best music will take you where you’re not sure you want to go. Santana was urging us to trust them, to go on this journey of darkness and light.

And when the song transitions after 1:30, the keyboard sounds like it was recorded in outer space. Nothing else sounded like this. Back in the classic rock era, where you didn’t fall in line, but went on your own exploratory trip.

"Oye Como Va"

Anita: "You sleep until noon and then you watch ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ and then you drive your cab, what a couple hours a day, and then you come home and order out food and then you play those stupid Tito Puente albums until two in the morning."

Winger: "Tito Puente is going to be dead and you’re going to say ‘I’ve been listening to him for years and I think he’s fabulous!’"

"Stripes" never gets enough love. Yes, it’s stupid, but it’s so damn SMART!

Bill Murray was not the only one who loved Tito Puente. Carlos Santana and his band brought this magic music to the rest of America. Santana turned "Oye Como Va" into a standard. And they lifted Tito’s arrangement, but by infusing it with Carlos’s guitar, they made it their own.

There’s no such thing as a bad version of "Oye Como Va", whether it be by Tito Puente, Santana or a marching band. It just makes you feel good all over. That’s the power of great changes.

"Black Magic Woman"

A magical intro. A few simple organ notes and a searing guitar. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be great, it’s just got to be right.

At the time, most people had no idea this was a Fleetwood Mac original, written by Peter Green, but this was when that band was still blues-based, before most of America caught on to how fabulous they truly were.

Fleetwood Mac’s take sounds dated, then again, so does Robert Johnson and the rest of the classic blues. Actually, it’s not exactly dated, but more akin to preserved in amber, evidence of another, better time.

Funny about Clive Davis victory laps. They bring the artists back to the forefront, they allow them to tour and make boatloads of money, but they muddy the legacy, the image of these great performers.

Sure, Rod Stewart would wear a suit way back when. But it was almost ironic. He was not selling out so much as pursuing his own dream, giving the middle finger to the establishment which he ultimately embraced, decades later. Yes, Levon Helm died and we’ve got a victory lap for the Band, but if you don’t believe Rod Stewart and his troupe of merrymakers deserve a victory lap for those first three, actually four, solo albums, you’ve never listened to them. But Levon stayed true, Rod did not.

And Carlos was even more down and out than Rod when he sold his soul to Clive. And the records he made with Mr. Davis were better than those of the Mod, at least they featured brand new material. But they were cookie-cutter, they were made to be hits, something "Abraxas" was not. "Abraxas" was a steaming hot platter made to blow listeners away on its own merit. It pulled no punches, played it not a whit safe. And it still stand up today.

"Abraxas" is not nostalgia, it’s MUSIC!

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