Santana III

I didn't know what this was when I picked it up. The jacket offers no band name or album title. Kind of like the Park Tavern on West Side Avenue in Jersey City; there's no way of knowing it's the Park Tavern unless you walk in, and once you're in, you never really want to leave.

Perhaps the band figured the crazy, intergalactic artwork would do the job. Once you open the gate, though, you know what you're getting into. This is Santana in 1971, a fire-breathing juggernaut of a band. A band in the truest sense of the word: Listening to this, even now from almost 40 years away, I get the sense that these guys came together like a championship team or like ions or like Voltron or something to get this thing done right, to rip through songs and light fires to stages and leave audiences in all sorts of shock and wonder.

This is a darker, more ferocious Santana than the band that debuted in 1969. "Batuka" opens the album with maddening hand percussion that builds and builds and lights the way for the scorching twin guitar leads from Carlos Santana and a rocking 17-year old Neal Schon before morphing into the super-groove of "No One to Depend On." By this point, I'm already set to submit, but the band keeps burning. There are handclaps and cowbells and shouts and whispers and trumpets and all sorts of psychedelic sway. This is straight-up guajira son, dirty blues, blistering rock, tripped-out fusion, and sweet, sweet soul. It kills.

The sound of this well-worn beat-to-shit Columbia 6-eye is remarkable for its great presence and stunning dynamic range. These guys are on full-throttle, but I find myself wanting to turn it up, turn it up, turn it up. The instruments never distort or become irritating in any way. My copy does suffer from some noise. All sorts: from the more common "pops" and "clicks" to some more disturbing swooshing effect at the opening of the album. (I am not sure what causes this particular noise, but I've heard something like it before, and I was able to clean it out of existence with my VPI 16.5 record-cleaning machine.) I'm looking forward to giving this record a good cleaning.

Jon Iverson once told me that the first three Santana albums stand up against the best three consecutive albums from any band ever. I still can't wait to get my hands on Abraxas, the band's second, and perhaps most popular release (next to that massively successful, TRL-assisted, compressed-to-hell Supernatural).

Neil's picture

Get the MFSL vinyl of Abraxas, trust me its probably the best sounding version

CE's picture

It's instantly identifiable, man the generation missed it all. Santanta at WoodStock, you do know what WoodStock is? This is not the better album. The magic of digital, no clicks, no pops.

kenmac's picture

This, Abraxas (MoFi anything blows), and Caravanserai are amazing records. The band was on fire, spiritual, flame throwing. !

Larry's picture

Stephen, nice catch youngster. III is a great band on a roll and recorded well enough to be a demo disc. Search out a mint copy and clean and LAST it.As others have stated, buy the new Mo-Fi Abraxas. It is a superb job with quiet surface and great sonics.

Pradeep's picture

Recently when I went on a work trip for a week I bought a couple of cds (including Abraxas) to listen in my car. For the whole week I could not move out of Abraxas. I only wish someone makes an album like this once in a while atleast. Get it now Stephen...I should say the cd also is recorded well.

Wes Phillips's picture

Stephen:I worked in a campus record store when III came out -- the band's name and a blurb were glued to the shrink wrap. I also concur with the suggestion of Caravanserai -- deep, deep exploration of mood.

john Atkinson's picture

I lent Stephen Caravanserai a while back. Perhaps he'll post his thoughts? For me it was a seminal album, not the least because of Doug Rauch's bass playing.

Stephen Mejias's picture

It's awesome to learn that so many people have deep, personal associations with the band. Caravanserai didn't hit me like either eponymous album. I found it a little too... atmospheric, with not enough... edge. But I think that I just wasn't ready for it. I'll have to listen again.

Stephen Scharf's picture

Young kids these days...what they've missed.Deep, personal associations wth this band? My goodness, Stephen, when I was graduating High School in 1971 when Santana III came out, they were THE band, particularly anywhere in the Bay Area, where I grew up. It kills? It destroys...Santana III is an epochal record for me...the first rock album I ever owned that was all about rock 'n roll LUST. The music on this album still can set me ablaze. IMHO, one of the greatest rock n' roll records ever. IMHO, as good as Abraxas is, III is better. Congrats on your find. Now, you need to go get a little record called "Kiln House" by Fleetwood Mac (way before the Stevie Nicks era) and put on a track called "Station Man".

Wayne's picture

Santana is my all-time favorite artist and has been since hearing him live in '72 during/just after Hurricane Agnes' move up the East coast. My favorite Santana are his 2nd three studio albums: "Caravanserai", "Love Devotion Surrender" and "Welcome" and I'll throw-in "Borboletta" for extra measure. These are more jazz-fusion than the rest but definitely are representative of my favorite version of the Santana Band. Give them a listen - you won't regret it.

jean's picture

Santana,Abraxas,third album,SantanaBuddyMiles:LIVE,Caravanserail,LoveDevotionSurrender,if I had to pick only one of these it would be the Third album,but the fire of the Live album with Buddy Miles will get me on my feet anytime.No more poll,steal,buy,download,copy...give your ears a feast.Listening is mandatory,you will be a better man,you are not allowed not to know this music!

Blues Magoo's picture

No one has mentioned Santanas best ever sounding album(IMHO)Moonflower!This has been a personal fave of mine for over 20 years.The live tracks are particularly stunning,apparently recorded in Europe using the Rolling Stones mobile unit.Highly recomended!