I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for musicians who have no concept of the term “excess”. Arcade Fire spring to mind as well as Kanye West. They have such monumental ambitions that it would be beyond absurd to try and tell them to chill out and try to achieve something more realistic. And they always manage to turn those over the top ambitions into glorious music productions. So it should come as absolutely no surprise that I adore Santana and their majestic magnum opus Abraxas.
Generations of future prog-rockers owe so much to this album’s existence even though I would never call this album prog-rock. Yet, with such significant fuses of psycadelia mixed over very extended instrumental solos and high-concept subject matter, this album almost lays the ground work for the entire prog movement. Despite the fact that there are often vocals on the album, it would not be incorrect to state that the vast majority of the album is simply the band playing their instruments and setting the mood and theme of the album through sheer instrumental wizardry. This will come as a shock to anyone who isn’t familiar with anything from the album other than it’s two biggest hits “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman” which are more conventional (but no less awesome) Latin rock songs. If you listen to this entire album and don’t come to the conclusion that Carlos Santana is simply one of the most gifted men to ever pick up a guitar, then you need to get your ears checked. He makes that guitar talk like no other. Round it out with so many jazz flourishes from time signature and rhythm changes and the latin percussion use that is prevalent throughout (I’ve never enjoyed bongos so much), and you have an album that is just exploding with different musical styles that are all done just absolutely incredibly well.
If you enjoy Jazz, rock, Prog, or latin music, you owe it to yourself to check this out. Through creative compositions and a definitively unique sound, Santana created one of the premiere jam albums of the 1970′s. Honestly, the only thing that keeps this album from perfection for me is that I wish they had used vocals even less than they did and simply explored the emotional soundscape that they could have created just with their instruments because that is where I feel their strengths truly lie. This is one of those albums that jumps right out at you and says “I am to be taken seriously.” I know I do.
Final Score: A