Santana Reviews

My reviews of albums released by Santana:

1969: Santana (9/10)

Santana didn’t invent Latin Rock on their debut album because Latin rock and roll had existed for about a decade (at least) and Latin blues had been invented recently, weirdly enough, in the UK. [Editor’s Note: I may be wrong about that.] But Santana take the Latin influence far further than anyone before them and, combining that with a Latin Jazz (and general Jazz) influence results in a sound that is uniquely their own, making previous Latin rock and roll sound far less sophisticated or modern and making bands like Fleetwood Mac sound faux Latin (which they were).

So many people copied what other bands did in the late ’60s that truly unique debuts are pretty hard to find outside of the most famous bands. But though you could accuse Santana of following in the steps of another band, they arguably had more right to the sound (since some of these guys are actually “Latin”) and they took it to new places, essentially establishing a subgenre that ended up influencing both rock and jazz artists.

Read my reviews of albums released in 1969.

1970″: Abraxas (9/10)

I just listened to this again and wrote the following:

Very similar to the first time out: a combination of rock, blues and jazz with a very heavy Latin influence. This time they go so far as to cover Fleetwood Mac, the UK pioneers of Latin blues rock, which is certainly something. (Their version of “Black Magic Woman” is certainly more famous, and a little more “Latin”, but it’s still kind of amusing that one of Santana’s signature songs is a cover.)

If you like the first album, everything here is pretty similar only with arguably better material – that’s why my original rating was higher.

But, as I get older, I find the number of 10/10 reviews I gave when I was younger to be kind of absurd (especially to records from the 1960s). This is a well-done fusion of Latin jazz, Latin rock, blues rock and other things. And it may be the best example of its genre, at least from the late ’60s/early ’70s. But I’m no longer sure it ranks among the great albums of its era, if only because of how much it relies on jamming.

I was thinking of dropping it down to 8/10 on account of a lack of songs but given that I currently have the debut at 9/10, and I don’t know when I’ll get around to re-listening to it, this has to be a 9/10 still.

Read my reviews of music from 1970.

1971: Santana [III] (7/10)

Santana’s third record continues their fusion of psychedelic music with their patented Latin/blues fusion thing, but it’s considerably jazzier and, at times, funkier. There’s a definite trend towards a sort of jazz rock type thing and away from the more straight ahead “psychedelia” of the earlier records.

For me, the songs aren’t quite as strong as before – particularly that pop song Santana wrote – but I still very much enjoy the musicianship.

Not the best introduction to the band if you only know “Black Magic Woman” but still a solid record.

Read my reviews of 1971 albums.

Albums involving Carlos Santana in 1972:

Bonus: Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles Live! (8*/10) with Buddy Miles:

I wrote this “review” sometime in the mists of time:

Enjoyable but a little short on great material.

I listened to this a ton when I was younger, as I my dad had it on vinyl or CD, and it was accessible. But I have not listened to it since.

Caravanserai (8/10)

I wrote this “review” sometime in the distant past:

Without McLaughlin, the whole thing sounds a little less intense which is both good and bad.

2023: I like this a fair amount. I’ve actually listened to it quite recently, among a whole host of other jazz rack, and I think it holds up pretty well. The stupidity of this is that my earlier comment record was released before Love Devotion Surrender.

Read my reviews of albums released in 1972.

Carlos Santana’s albums from 1973:

Love, Devotion, Surrender (8*/10) with John McGlaughlin:

Sometime in the mists of time, I wrote the following:

All this is is two guys showing off. It’s great, but it’s just technique.

2023: I actually listened to this recently but as part of a lot of other jazz rock. It’s impressive but I don’t know how “great” it is.

Welcome (???)

Read my reviews of music from 1973.

1974: Borboletta (???)

Read my reviews of 1974 albums.

1976: Amigos (4?/10)

I wrote this in 2016 or 2021:

I declined to include it in the podcast when the anniversary popped up. It’s pretty poppy for them.

I haven’t listened to this album in forever because at some point I decided I really didn’t like it as you can tell by the rating. But it has been forever.

Read my reviews of albums released in 1976.

1977: Festivál (???)

Amigos turned me off and I didn’t pursue their other records.

Read my reviews of music from 1977.

1978: Inner Secrets (???)

Read my reviews of 1978 albums.

1979: Marathon (???)

Read my reviews of albums released in 1979.

1981: Zebop! (???)

Read my reviews of music from 1981.

1982: Shango (???)

Read my reviews of 1982 albums.

1985: Beyond Appearances (???)

Read my reviews of albums released in 1985.

1987: Freedom (???)

Read my reviews of music from 1987.

1990: Spirits Dancing in the Flesh (???)

Read my reviews of 1990 albums.

1992: Milagro (???)

Read my reviews of albums released in 1992.

1999: Supernatural (4/10)

When this record came out I was just starting to get into the less popular ’60s bands. I was familiar with Santana’s biggest songs from that era, but not their albums. I would get their a few years later and listening to those albums would confirm my impression of this record’s hits: this was a cynical cash grab posing as an attempt to use Santana’s general fame plus some contemporary artists which had little in common with him to make everyone a lot of money. Did I listen to the album to form that opinion? I sure didn’t.

But for anyone even remotely familiar with the sound of Santana in the 1960s – a fairly radical fusion of latin music, blues and jazz, even if Fleetwood Mac had already done the latin blues thing before Santana did – it’s hard to reconcile that sound and those songs with “Smooth” and whatever else. It feels like some kind of unholy fusion of Boomer Nostalgia with Adult Contemporary which, unsurprisingly, turned out to be a very good idea from a commercial perspective. But it’s the opposite of what Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash, or what T Bone Burnett has done for countless others, or for what Eric Clapton (who guests here) did for himself (on more than one occasion, as he vacillated between traditional and more contemporary records for a time). The singles don’t feel like an update and revitalization of Santana’s sound, they feel like Santana is guesting on a bunch of relatively unrelated contemporary songs that are definitely more for your parents than for you.

But that’s not actually the biggest problem with the record, and it’s a problem I was entirely unaware of, having ignored the album for 20 years. The problem is that the other half of the record is just a normal Santana album! It’s like these songs are trying to pretend the all star guest songs are on some other record. And it’s utterly bizarre and incongruous. At the very least, if you are going to sell your soul to the commercial dictates of Adult Contemporary, you could sell your entire soul, rather than half of it.

I mean, who is this record for? Is it for people who know Rob Thomas or Everlast or Lauryn Hill or whomever and think it’s cool that they’re collaborating on catchy songs with some guy from their parents’ music collection? Or is it for Santana fans? Or is it for these parents, who forgot about Santana for the last 25 years and wanted to be reminded of him by these younger artists (they’ve never heard of) who make their old music tastes seem slightly less old? If you are in any of these groups of people, except the latter you will be disappointed. And if you’re in the latter group… well, I’m sorry.

Read my reviews of music from 1999.

2002: Shaman (???)

Read my reviews of 2002 albums.

2005: All That I Am (???)

Read my reviews of albums released in 2005.

2010: Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time (???)

Despite the title, this is a Santana covers record. Read my reviews of music from 2010.

2012: Shape Shifter (???)

Read my reviews of 2012 albums.

2014: Corazón (???)

Read my reviews of albums released in 2014.

2016: Santana IV (???)

Read my few reviews of music from 2016.

2019: Africa Speaks (???)

Read my few reviews of 2019 albums.

2021: Blessings and Miracles (???)

Read my few reviews of albums released in 2021.