Friday, April 9, 2010

Layer 279 . . . Santana, a Ferrari, Musical Memories, Spiritual Journeys


It's a beautiful Spring day, and it's being made even more beautiful by having non-stop Santana on Spotify. I do love Spotify.

It's strange how such beautiful and spiritually uplifting music - and for me there's nothing quite like Santana's brand of rhythmic latino-bluesy-soul-rock for lifting the spirit - can take you off down roads you never even thought to go down.

Having switched on Spotify this morning I was presented with a welcome page from which the Santana collection just leaped out.

I'm currently listening to a brilliant track I've never even heard of  - Fried Neck Bones And Some Home Fries - which is the first track on the second disc of the Legacy Edition of their very first album - recorded in 1969 and never been bettered by anyone ever. This was the album that grabbed your attention with the monochrome cover of a snarling lion's head, framed by its mane, and a great "Santana" graphic down the right hand side. A cover that was in some ways understated, but suggested power and originality and something . . . very different.

I'm not sure whether I've written about this before, but the first time I came across this debut album was in the passenger seat of a Ferrari 365 powering and snarling its way with unbelievable speed across France. My then girlfriend, V, was sitting in her minidress in the back seat along with our rucksacks - this being one of the very few 2 + 2 Ferraris ever made in the 1960s, and therefore capable of offering a lift to hitchhikers. What an amazing experience. I've no doubt that V in her eye-catching minidress was the reason we were offered this lift - all the way from Marseilles to Paris. This was a lift, and an experience, beyond belief, beyond my wildest dreams.

Santana are the Ferrari of the music world. Class, quality, beauty, power, soul, originality, dynamism, excitement, spirit and sheer soaring excellence. Guaranteed to lighten your mood - whatever it may be - and transport you to higher realms. Guaranteed to ignite your passions, move your body, grab all of your senses, and make the day a very good day.

Ferrari 365 2+2 V12

Carlos, the main man, played, and still plays the guitar, like no-one else. If you ever needed a musician to provide a sound track for a cross-continent trip in a Ferrari, then Carlos is your man. He's unbelievable. His contribution to the track called "Chill Out (Things Gonna Change)" on one of John Lee Hooker's albums is staggeringly brilliant. Check out the look on John Lee's face as Carlos does his thing - and he was a man who'd seen most things and was not easily impressed.

Carlos' virtuoso musicianship was sufficient in itself to make his band a great - a truly great - band . . . but there was so much more on top of that.

Wailing Hammond organ, with improvised riffs swirling their Leslie-amp vibrato-driven way into your skull - check out the live version of 'Savor' on the Legacy edition, as well as Fried Neck Bones.

Phenominal rhythmic work by the bass, kit drums, and the percussion players on congas and timbales - same track and also 'Jingo (live)' and 'Soul Sacrifice' - incredible. Crank up the volume, put on your headphones - do what you have to do to really get into this amazing thing.

On that first album there's not a single track that's less than arresting, original and thrilling. I still feel this way about it some 40 years down the line, so imagine what it felt like sitting in a Ferrari doing 140 listening to a band, and a type of music I didn't even know existed, for the very first time - on a hi-fi sound system the likes of which I didn't even know existed. Such a shame, incidentally, that the cartridge driven system didn't succeed in becoming the industry (tape) standard. Great quality.

This bit is from Wikipedia -


Around the age of 8, Santana "fell under the influence" of blues performers like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. He also credits Jimi Hendrix as an important influence.

Spiritual journey

In 1972, Santana became a huge fan of the pioneering fusion band The Mahavishnu Orchestra and its guitarist John McLaughlin. Aware of Santana's interest in meditation, McLaughlin introduced Santana and Deborah to his guru, Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy accepted them as disciples in 1973. Santana was given the name "Devadip" – meaning "The lamp, light and eye of God." Santana and McLaughlin recorded an album together, Love, Devotion, Surrender with members of Santana and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, along with percussionist Don Alias and organist Larry Young, who both had made appearances on Miles Davis' classic Bitches Brew in 1969.

In 1973, Santana, having obtained legal rights to the band's name, formed a new version of Santana, with Armando Peraza and Chepito Areas on percussion, Doug Rauch on bass, Michael Shrieve on drums, and Tom Coster and Richard Kermode on keyboards.

The group later went into the studio and recorded Welcome, which further reflected Santana's interests in jazz fusion and his commitment to the spiritual life of Sri Chinmoy.


Sri Chinmoy

If you want to be
A reformed character,
Then every day
Keep your heart-lotus
Fresh, beautiful,
Prayerful and soulful.


By Natalie Long
March 29, 2010

Carlos Santana's spiritual growth

Everything that I do is balanced, said Carlos Santana. The born-again musician said the goal of his music far transcends entertainment.

"When you hit a note, it's easy to give people chills," Carlos Santana tells me.

The Mexican musician is sitting in a booth at the Shangri-La in Dubai, where he's been staying since Thursday . . . not going out, just "reading the books I'm into. I'm reading a book about Desmond Tutu and a book about learning in a tangible way to become more transparent."

"The more transparent you become, there's less of me, myself and my story. Me, myself and my story really get in the way," he says. " - in the way of the message that everyone is meaningful and significant. No one's special. When people think they're special — look at Michael Jackson — you start thinking that your pain is more than someone else's and you need special drugs and a special doctor. I've seen that with all the people that I love, like Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix — they become more special than other human beings - and we're not. You may have more zeros to the right of the cheque, but everyone is equally significant and meaningful."


Music-led philosophy

Santana has a well-documented interest in spirituality, as someone whose career started with a phenomenal gig at Woodstock may well lay claim to. He's studied under Indian gurus . . .  and now, it seems he's taken that lifetime of experiences and rolled it into a fascinating, music-led philosophy on life.

"This stuff is really tangible that I'm talking about - not hocus-pocus, mumbo-jumbo or wishful thinking," he says. "It's solid as the foundation of this building, it's gonna hold you. A lot of people ask, what kind of amplifier, what kind of strings, what kind of guitar, what kind of speakers, and I say, you forgot to ask me the most important question: what was I thinking about, feeling?"


"I think that the music that I love — what I call the sound of eternity — It's A Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong, What's Going On, Marvin Gaye, Imagine, John Lennon, One Love, Bob Marley — remind you of eternity because they will always be relevant and you stay forever young. I call it the fragrance of the soul, because it's not coming from any other part than from the centre of your heart, the best part of you."

While his record label celebrates a decade since the release of Supernatural (which landed nine Grammys) with a reissue of the album this year, Santana himself is looking ahead . . .

"Everything that I do is balanced. I've made a commitment. It's not a job, routine or labour. It's like offering flowers to people, to ensure your smile is as fresh as possible."

More mind-boggling tracks:

Toussaint L'Ouverture (Santana III)
Jungle Strut (Santana III)
Day of Celebration (Supernatural - Legacy Edition) 

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