Santana III


Columbia Records, 1971

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


I'll say it straight out; this is a fantastic album.

I'm not at all familiar with most of Santana's musical output, but I do know that he made a name for himself with a smashing performance in 1969 when he played at Woodstock, the same year his first album was released. I also know that he has experienced real highs and lows throughout his long career, capped by a massive comeback in 1999 with his Supernatural album, which I believe has actually become one of the top 20 or 30 best selling albums of all time, and certainly his biggest triumph in the commercial sense.

While Supernatural certainly wasn't bad, I personally don't think it comes close to the brilliant musicianship contained on this self-titled effort, which was his third album and released in 1971.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

These early Santana albums were probably the first successful mainstream fusion of Latin music and rhythms with hard rock; not a great surprise considering Santana's Mexican roots and American upbringing. This album is a fascinating listen from start to finish...the blend of different styles experimented with just work together magically.

Just listen to the opening track, "Batuka," one of the finest rock instrumentals I've ever heard. Normally one would assume that Latin influenced music is cheesy poppy stuff that people in Brazil like to grind to. Or people in North America stupidly consider the likes of Ricky Martin to be a "groundbreaking" crossover fusion of latin music with rock, which of course is complete poppycock.

Yes, "Batuka" is a clear message that Latin music can actually have balls... just listen to the complex percussion accompanied with funky bass rhythms and a plethora of heavy guitar riffs courtesy of good 'ol Carlos himself. He also liberally throws hyperactive melodic solos around that are short and sweet enough to remain an impressive showcase of his technical ability without becoming irritating endless wankfests as many other guitarists tended to indulge in at the time. He certainly has a knack for melodic playing with great feel. Also, check out the addition of the crazy organ towards the end of the song, which reminds one of the best of Deep Purple!

The rest of the album pretty much retains this high level of songwriting and musicianship, perfecting the blend of Latin rhythms with blues, soul, lounge, and of course the hard rock which cements it all together. Some songs lean more heavily towards pure Latin music even sung in Spanish, and then there's others like "Everybody's Everything" which sound more like a '60s James Brown soul pop number. All the tracks are very melodic and interesting without ever sounding too commercial... they perfectly reflect the album cover in that listening to the album is like embarking on a journey into a mystical land.

Rating: B+

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© 2001 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.