“Bill, we could really use your help getting this Woodstock thing together.”
“I don’t know, man, I’m kind of busy these days.”
“Please, Bill – it might be bigger than we thought.”
“OK, I’ll do it – but I’ve got this new band I’m managing, and you gotta let them play.”
“Sure thing, we’ll add them to the bill. What are they called?”
OK, so that’s not exactly how it really went down. But the story goes, Graham was helping a new band – Santana – finish their first album in 1969, and when the folks behind Woodstock came calling for his help, he agreed only if Santana was given a slot to perform at the festival.
You can fill in the rest.
Few artists have enjoyed the longevity of Carlos Santana. And yet here we are, 50 years after Woodstock, 20 years after the release of his blockbuster “Supernatural” album, and Santana is still at it. His “Mona Lisa” EP dropped earlier this year, and a possible double album commemorating Woodstock is due out in late spring. This summer, the “Supernatural Now” tour, guest-starring the Doobie Brothers, will roll through New Jersey. And if there is to be a reunion concert of any kind in Bethel, you can bet Santana will be a part of it.
If you want to celebrate all things Santana this year – a year that marks two huge milestones for the icon – here are a few places to start:
“Abraxas”, 1970. The band’s self-titled debut held “Evil Ways,” but their sophomore effort is not one to miss. Highlighted by “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen”, “Abraxas” let the world know Santana was a force to be reckoned with. You won’t find the instrumentals “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts” or “Incident at Neshabur” on any greatest hits collections, but they’re perfect additions to your playlist too.
“Caravanserai”, 1972. Moving away from the Latin-based rock that made them famous, Santana waded into an effort filled mostly with jazz-influenced instrumentals. Right from the opening songs of crickets on “Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation,” “Caravanserai” flows through 10 tracks that are by turns mind-expanding and exhilarating. It wasn’t a commercial success, but you’re looking for something mellow and complex, this is the album to get. (It’s also the last Santana album to feature Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon, who would become the founders of Journey in 1973.)
“Moonflower”, 1977. An interesting mix of studio and live tracks, this double album blends the two sounds that defined Santana’s early years: Latin blues rock, and jazz fusion. Santana’s reading of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” is a high point. It would be the last Santana album to reach platinum status until “Supernatural” some two decades later.
“Dance of the Rainbow Serpent”, 1995. Not an album, exactly, but a three-disc boxed set that weaves tracks from the band with Carlos Santana’s solo work. Some of the best cuts are his collaborations – with John Lee Hooker, Vernon Reid, and Weather Report, among others. His cover of Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way” is stunning, as is his interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Naima.” Don’t download this, though – find the boxed set for the retrospective booklet.