Category: Albums


I See a Darkness

I remember the first time I ever listened to Bob Dylan. I had expressed an interest in his music to my father when I was younger and a couple of days later, my dad came home with his greatest hits CD. It was love at first sight, and as I’ve had more opportunities to delve deeper into his discography, it’s only re-affirmed my love of the power of folk music. While an unhealthy proportion of folk music is seen as hippies playing acoustic guitars in coffee shops, there’s still fantastic folk music being written today by artists like The Decemberists or The Weepies. I just finished listening to an album that is now considered a seminal piece of indie folk music, Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s I See a Darkness. Through a skillful combination of a wide array of influences and a master’s understanding of song composition, I See a Darkness was an instant classic (for those who heard it) that positioned Bonnie “Prince” Billy to be to folk what Wilco was to country.

As mentioned, I See a Darkness is a folk album by indie artist Bonnie “Prince” Billy (one of the many names that Will Oldham has performed under over the years). However, this album is about as much pure folk as Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was pure country, which is to say, this album incorporates a wide array of sounds into its overall production. While I mentioned Bob Dylan at the beginning of this review, he really isn’t the first folk artist that springs to mind when I here I See a Darkness. My first thoughts honestly are what if you combined the country-rock of The Band with the singer-songwriting prowess of artists like Jeff Buckley or Elliot Smith. While the instrumental influences range from country-rock to blues to traditional folk arrangements, they are all presented in a simple and unimposing structure that belies some considerable complexity in orchestration. From a lyrical perspective, I can’t help but think of the dark and introspective nature of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and the lyrics are a considerable asset of the album as Will Oldham is a considerable poet on some rather bleak themes.Perhaps one of his strongest assets is his ability to write unpretentious but powerful songs with intelligent lyrics that still manage to have hooks to make nearly every song memorable.


At eleven tracks and just over 40 minutes, I See a Darkness is a textbook example of how to keep your album at the perfect length. Every track is fantastic although some stick with you longer than others. My favorite song on the album was “Madeleine-Mary” which was classic hook-driven folk-rock. While it perhaps had his most conventional instrmentation, it also was a phenomenal showcase for his unique voice and balladic song-writing. On “Today I Was an Evil One” he channels more of the country-folk sound that I associate with The Decemberists and only served to re-affirm my Wilco comparisons. “Raining in Darling” was a simply beautiful but subtle tale of love. “Death to Everyone” manages to turn a song about how we all will die somebody into the second catchiest song on the album which is an impressive feat. Much like Wilco, he also manages to incorporate some sonic elements to his normal folk/rock/country arrangements which add another layer of depth to already impressive musical ambitions.

If you’re a fan of folk music, whether this be Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Decemberists, Elliot Smith, or the Weepies, etc, then this album needs to move to the top of your listen queue. Folk has never really received the attention it deserves from people my age (early 20’s) except within certain circles, but this album is shining example of the power the genre can still hold. Sure, it was released over a decade ago, but its has age has done absolutely nothing to diminish its strength or power. A very large number of the albums I will be reviewing for this blog are going to come from the indie music spectrum and this album is proof of the sheer talent and entertainment that can be derived from musicians that the average person has probably never heard of. I’m looking forward to my chance to listen to more of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s music (or Will Oldham’s other acts for that matter) as this album was an instant classic.

Final Score: A

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Untrue

Today was an especially long day of school. On Wednesdays, I have class from 9:30 to 10:20 but not again til 1:30 after which I have class til nearly 8. Normally, I use that couple hour break to return to my house (which is about a 2 mile walk from campus) to eat and rest. However, because of extenuating circumstances, I never got to go home for my break, and I spent practically the entire day downtown in class buildings. While this led to me being nearly starved by the time I got home since I couldn’t eat downtown, it did give me the opportunity to listen to two albums throughout the day (each of which I listened to at least twice). I just finished reviewing As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 by 2 Many DJs, and the other album I listened to was the instant dubstep classic, Untrue, by formerly anonymous and unnamed dubstep producer Burial (who has since been outed). Through a combination of signature heavy and rhythmic dubstep beats and Radiohead-esque ambient landscapes, this album was a highly experimental and unique creation that unfortunately left me feeling very cold and distant at times because of the nature of the music itself.

I feel slightly inadequate when it comes to reviewing this album. Before I listened to this album, I was completely unfamiliar with the genre of dubstep, other than knowing it had become very popular among the raves and nightclubs that young adults my age like to frequent. I associated it with heavy and deep synthesizer riffs and complex time measures. I had never listened to an entire dubstep album, and I couldn’t really name any dubstep artists off the top of my head. Thankfully, my transition to dubstep was eased by this album’s very heavy use of ambient sonic textures as well significant amounts of sound effects and things I know from my time with noise rock. Also, there was a considerable use of sampled vocals that had been modified beyond that of normal human melodies which also lessened the gap in experience. When the album is beautifully mixing the ambience that I associate with Radiohead or Panda Bear with tightly wound dubstep beats or when the album simply explores the sonic universe, the album is simply a revelation. However, it is bogged down by a cold emotional distance that keeps me from getting too attached to the music as well as by sections where Burial tries too hard to make more pure dubstep.

There are plenty of standout tracks on the album. The bleak emotional landscape of “Endorphin” consistently reminded me of Kid A‘s “Treefingers” each time I listened to it and “In McDonalds” was another track that immediately brought Radiohead’s magnum opus to mind. “Ghost Hardware” was the best amalgamation of the ambient and the dubstep, and it was simultaneously beautiful and unsettling. The dichotomy between beauty and the disturbing was always present in the album as I was never able to make up my mind as to whether a song was making me feel good or terrifying me. The use of vocal manipulation on the samples in “Etched Headplate” was astounding and it reminded me a lot of the big vocoder solo in “Runaway” from My Beautiufl Dark Twisted Fantasy. The music would often accomplish a nearly “drone” like level of trance through me when the heavy pounding dub beats completely took over my mind and I got lost in the pounding rhythms amongst a strangely evocative ambient soundscape.

In our post-modern era and with  my fairly extensive knowledge of music, it’s very rare for me to say that something is an entirely unique experience, but I can say without hesitation that I have never listened to another album like Untrue in my life. I feel like this has the potential to be one of those albums that will just continue to grow on me with each and every listen, and I still stand by my hypothesis that I may be too inexperienced in dubstep to really analyze this particular work. However, I honestly really enjoyed this album. It had flaws that kept me from being able to totally immerse myself in it, but it kept me constantly intellectually engaged the whole time as I marveled at the more complex orchestrations and the superb use of sound effects and sonic exploration. I’m looking forward to listening to this again sometime soon.

Final Score: B+

Every now and then, you listen to an album, and every critical and intellectual instinct you have says that this music simply should not work. It’s too silly. it’s too ambitious, it’s too “out-there.” My tastes in music have gotten fairly eclectic over the years so I’m pretty willing to give absolutely any genre of music a chance before I pass judgment, but I must admit that I was mentally preparing myself for some real silliness with 2003’s As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 by the electronic rock act 2 Many DJs (which is simply a side project for the regular band Soulwax) since the album is a mash-up album of over 114 different songs. The reason I was preparing myself for silliness was the ridiculously diverse and inherently incompatible artists that were being mashed and re-mixed over the course of the album’s considerable length. And while I was right, it was incredibly silly, it was also the definition of a fun dance album which never ceased to entertain me with its shocking but surprisingly well done song selection.

As I mentioned, As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 is a mash-up album. Therefore, there is no (as far as I could tell) original music on the album, but instead it consists entirely of songs where the instruments of one track like Iggy Pop and the Stooges “No Fun” is layered on top of the vocals of another song, in this case Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It”. Or, the songs are simply heavily, heavily remixed versions of other songs like Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away” which some listeners may recognize from the Jackass film. The album simply bounces all over the place in terms of musical styles or speed or general levels of “are they really mixing these two songs together”. It starts off with prog rock mixed over house and then goes to electro-rock/techno to kraut rock to funk to R& B. On one’s first listen to this album (I’ve done it three times today almost), you simply have no clue exactly where this album is going to take you, and even after repeat listens, you’re still in awe of the ridiculous nature of the album.

The album is chock-full of inspired mash-ups. The Iggy Pop/ Salt-N-Pepa combination is an obvious highlight, but there are dozens of others over the albums 30 track length. At one point, Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” is transformed into a rocking disco anthem over the electronic beats of Royksopp’s “Eple”. Destiny’s Child “Independent Women Pt. 1” is used better than in its original format over a 10cc track, “Dreadlock Holiday”. The album instantly draws you in with its open which is the prog of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer played overtop of the house music of Basement Jaxx. They even have the audacity to remix a classic Velvet Underground track beyond any recognizability and yet make it all work within the context of the album. Much of the album segues directly from one song to the next with no pauses. This is beyond a doubt an album that must be listened from start to finish for it to remotely have its full effect.

If you’re a fan of DJ music and the genre of mash-ups like with Girl Talk, then this album needs to be checked out. It might not be perfect and its incredibly erratic nature maybe keeps it from real greatness, but this is one of the most fun and immediately accessible albums I’ve reviewed. It’s got one or two tracks that disrupt from the flow considerably, and “I Sit on Acid” was legitimately probably bad, but that was one blemish on an otherwise fantastic product. Yeah, this is a really damn weird album, but if you can get past the preposterous “take it too far” nature that lends the album its charm, then you’re in for a considerable treat. This is the first mash-up album I’ve listened to in its entirety and it has me really excited to hear some more stuff from the rest of this previously unexplored genre

Final Score: B+

 

Violator

Maybe it’s the hipster in me, but I am immediately wary and cautious when approaching extremely popular and commercially successful music (from the last two decades anyways). There’s a nagging intellectual condescension that if that many people enjoy it, then it has to be too low-brow and not artsy enough to be truly great. My familiarity with Depeche Mode is mostly with their reputation as one of the most popular electronic rock acts of all time and the occasional listen to their biggest hit, “Personal Jesus”. It wasn’t until their album Violator in 1990 that the band would really begin to cement their legacy and the album has sold nearly 15 million copies, which is a lot to put it lightly. So, when I popped Violator in I was expecting a fairly mainstream electro-rock album along the lines of The Killers and that it would be fairly accessible and easy to contend with. I was wrong. Violator is an artistic tour-de-force of dark, sinister passions and wildly experimental electronic orchestrations. After several listens over the last two days, I’m at a loss at how this album was so successful. It’s spectacular but the subject matter is so dark and the style is so experimental that this should be beyond the range of the average listener.

The albums that are considered to be the pioneers of specific genres are often very difficult to appreciate after the fact as decades of popular music has distilled and explored and mutated what they created. While Violator probably isn’t a pioneering album of synthpop (since the entire decade of New Wave that preceded it thoroughly explored the genre), I don’t believe it’s hyperbole to state that Violator was the most appropriate curtain call for New Wave as it masterfully combines the best parts of the genre while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the next decade’s worth of electronic music. While it may be fair to say that this album couldn’t exist without Disintegration, it is even more accurate to say that OK Computer or Kid A would just be a pipe dream were it not for the obvious influences of this album. For the last several years (or since my music tastes matured), it’s been apparent that sonic texturing and emotional escapes into pure music are as effective as traditional melodic structures or vocals. Most albums I’ve reviewed usually fall into one of those two camps, but Violator jumps back and forth across the sonic line and comes out the better for it.

The most obvious track from the album to mention is “Personal Jesus” which still stands as the groups most visible and culturally significant hit. I can only describe the song as intelligent arena rock, although there’s an irony there as it is one of the most simply constructed and, therefore, accessible songs on my album. It’s a great pop anthem, but one of my least favorite songs on the album. For me that honor goes to either the album’s opening number “World In My Eyes” which is a darkly sinister and sexual bit of synth-funk centered on the foreboding vocals and lyrics of lead singer Dave Gahan or “Sweetest Perfection” which is possibly the darkest track on the album which fully explores a vast sonic landscape and sound effects against a tale of obsession and deep and dark chords with a nice change-up towards the end of the song. The entire album is strong from the surprisingly beautiful “Waiting for the Night” which feels like a big influence later on for Radiohead to the dark tale of S&M and sexuality that is “Halo” which is a challenging song but worth wrestling with.

I said at the beginning of the review that I was unable to comprehend how this album sold as well as it did with its dark themes and often disturbing sound, but (after listening to it again while writing this review), I think I understand it. At a surface level, the album is simply stellar electric-pop/funk/rock that anyone can listen to and enjoy. However, the discerning ear can delve into the poetry of the lyrics and the complex orchestration and find so much more to enjoy outside of the funky synthesizers or Dave Gahan’s appealing voice. This is an album that simply demands multiple listens and its perfectly edited length, many listens won’t tire you but will be a pure joy to jump back into the album again and again. It’s one of the most challenging albums I’ve reviewed so far with its heavy subject matter and intense and provocative lyrics, but that is one of many things that makes this album great. If you’re a fan of intelligent pop music, this is a must listen.

Final Score: A

After a considerable amount of copy & pasting (along with many additions to the categories section of the website), I have finally transferred all of my old music reviews from my old music review blog to my more all-purpose blog, mainly for the purpose of centralizing all of my traffic in one convenient place. This will be my first album review after a nearly 8 month hiatus, but I’m hoping all of the blogging experience and analytic writing I’ve done since then will more than make up for any rustiness. Now that the new school semester has started, I have a nearly 30 minute walk to class along with an hour long waiting period between classes that is too short to return home so I’ve gained a lot of free time to just sit and listen to music. While I actually won’t review something that I was listening to while walking (cause I’m only able to half-listen), as I was waiting for my classes to begin today, I had the very pleasant opportunity to listen to a hidden gem of an album that I’ve loved for a long time, 2008’s Welcome to Mali by Amadou & Mariam. It’s a nearly perfect amalgamation of blues, funk, rock, and electronic interludes that is only bogged down by an excessive length and the occasional repetition of melodies and sounds.

Amadou & Mariam are a Malian couple that met while students at a school for the blind. They sing in French and while I have absolutely no clue what most of their songs are about (except the rare ones that are partially in English), that does absolutely nothing to diminish my enjoyment of this album. Much like Santana’s Abraxas, Welcome to Mali is world music as pure, never ending genre fusion. Not since the last time that I listened to the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense have I heard an album that so seamlessly combines such a wide array of seemingly disparate genres. The album bounces from traditional African instrumentation and sound to electro-funk to hard rock to the blues to more traditional pop sensibilities. This is all layered with a rich sonic tapestry that explores considerable electronic influences even while the pair lay down rocking lead guitar solos or groovy bass riffs. Did I mention that this one of the most danceable albums that I’ve reviewed for the blog as well?

One would never guess from the heavily electronic and futuristic intro to the album, “Sabali,” just where this album is going to blast off to. “Sabali” segues directly into the catchiest track of the whole album, the political “Ce N’est Pas Bon”, an Afro-funk political anthem. The funk and complex orchestration accompanying the grooves fades to some mellower stuff with “DJuru” which introduces some unexpected but welcome flamenco guitar work. Just when it seems that things are mellowing for good, you get the hard rock track “Masiteladi” with well-placed power chords and the best lead guitar solo of the whole album. Then, the album slows again for the English “I Follow You” which might not be the best song lyrically on the planet but it has an absolutely gorgeous use of strings and a steady rise and fall of the intensity of the music for a very emotional experience. The album simply goes all out for its final three numbers as it proceeds to combine all of its influences you’ve heard separately into sheer electro-funk/rock bombast, especially on “Batoman” which is simply the strongest track on the album.

As much as I love this album, it’s, unfortunately, not perfect.  While this section has plenty of great tracks as well, the middle section of the album can become a little bloated when a lot of the funky riffs you’ve heard before are repeated and strangely out of place tracks like “Je Te Kiffe” jar you out of the “album” experience. However, these are minor quibbles. As I’ve said, I don’t speak a word of French, but this album never felt inaccessible for one second during my listen. This is fun and engaging funk-rock at some of its finest. This was an incredibly ambitious album, and while it may not succeed on every front, when it hits the right notes, there is absolutely no choice but to sit back and get lost in the music.

Final Score: A-

The Beastie Boys confound me. They rose to prominence with an outrageous image of frat-boy shenanigans defined with their big start Licensed to Ill. Rather than coast on that success or that image, they went a complete 180 with their next album Paul’s Botique, which was wicked smart and explored brand new sonic landscapes and is also one of the premier examples of how to sample well in hip-hop. So, where does the next album Check Your Head fit into all this. I really don’t know. It’s an album of maddening contradictions where the promise of awesome funk-hop/ rap rock are buried under needless illusions that this band are talented members of the hardcore punk scene. So far, no other album I’ve reviewed for this list has shown so much promise while doing so many things simultaneously wrong.

When you’re a group of white, Jewish rappers from Brooklyn, your skills on the mic had better be pretty damn good if you’re going to want anybody to take you seriously. On Paul’s Botique, the Beastie Boys did just that. Their rhymes were smart and funny and clever. I distinctly got the impression throughout this entire album that the same level of care and effort did not go into the crafting of Check Your Head. It gets even worse when the boys try their hands at hardcore punk. Perhaps I’m not qualified to judge their talent in this field. My punk listening habits pretty much exist solely in the Clash, Rancid, and Bad Religion so I don’t really know that much about the scene. But unintelligible screaming mixed over poorly played guitar and bass just don’t do it for me. You can be punk and still know how to make good music (which as I’ll get to in a second, these boys do). What’s incredibly frustrating about all of this is that there are times on the album when they are laying down awesome funky bass grooves, exploring cool and unique sonic landscapes, and actually laying down decent rhymes every now and then. Unfortunately, the album is so inconsistent in this process. It was like they tried way too hard to jam all sorts of different styles into one album when the styles weren’t meshing very well to begin with.

I can’t recommend this album as whole-heartedly as I have others. If you like the Beastie Boys, you should obviously listen to it because it shows another evolution in their sound, but odds are, if you’re a fan, you’ve already heard the album. There’s no other group that I can really say should listen to this album. The only other reason you should listen to it is if you have an academic interest in what popular music looked like in the early 1990′s. Otherwise, you can stay away.

Final Score: C

The late 1960′s/ early 1970′s are often considered the high water-mark of rock music, and for good reason. The Beatles were at the top of their creative and wildly original output. The Stones were releasing record after record of pure rock and roll soul. And to round it all out, a group of young up and comers calling themselves The Who were just starting to emerge. For the most part, The Beatles and The Stones get all of the credit. Yet, I consider it a cardinal sin to ignore just how influential and well beyond their years The Who were as well. Punk music would not exist without them, and they pioneered many areas such as sound distortion and synthesizers. Their album Who’s Next is a truly essential piece of the rock and roll canon.

From the opening synthesizer intro of “Baba O’Riley” (not called “Teenage Wasteland”), you know you’re in for something that sounds entirely different than all of the classic rock that preceded it. You have the guitar distortion on “Going Mobile” that would make Tom Morello proud. You have the sonic landscapes they paint throughout each song to serve as a background to the kick-your-ass rock and roll that defines their music. “Behind Blue Eyes” is one of the premier rock ballads ever written. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is one of the most clever songs I’ve ever heard about political revolutions with it’s famous line “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. Of course, you have Keith Moon’s drumming which stands alongside the all-time greats like John Bonham or Neil Peart. Roger Daltrey has one of the greatest rock and roll voices of all time and Pete Townshend shines on the guitar like it’s going out of style.

This is one of the greatest albums of all time. It’s plain and simple. In terms of the influence that this album would have on generations of musicians, it would be difficult to tell just how monumental said influence is. From prog rock to punk rock to straight out hard rock, this album is quintessential in studying popular music’s origins. There is absolutely no reason why anyone should not at least check this album out because it is probably the most accessible album I’ve reviewed so far.

Final Score: A+

One of my favorite websites to casually peruse when I’m bored is TVTropes.org. It’s kind of like wikipedia for pop culture. It cleverly examines the various tropes or cliches of mediums with a bit of self-knowing humor and love for what it’s analyzing. One of the tropes is “Everybody Remembers the Stripper” which describes an incident where a minor and unimportant detail overshadow the rest of the work, like Jason Biggs having sex with a pie or the big reveal of The Crying Game. I’ll admit now that I suffered from a similar phenomenon concerning Icelandic musician Bjork. My knowledge of her was pretty much cemented solely in the fact that she wore a ridiculous swan dress to the Oscars. I had no idea, prior to yesterday, that she was also capable of making extraordinarily beautiful albums like her 2001 LP Vespertine.

Vespertine is what I imagine Kid A or OK Computer would have sounded like if Radiohead had a female singer and were intent on sexing you up. It’s ambient and electronic but so overtly sexual that you may feel like you need to take a cold shower when the album is over. From her sultry vocals to the up-front sexual imagery of the album, this album does the impossible which is turning cold electronic sounds into the soundtrack of lust and passion. Her voice/music is like sex distilled into its purest form. Songs like “It’s Not Up to You” with its string crescendos overwhelms you with its sonic power and emotional force. Other highlighted tracks include “Pagan Poetry” and “Aurora”.

If you don’t appreciate electronica or ambient music, then you probably aren’t going to enjoy this album cause that’s what it essence boils down to. If you can’t handle an album that may get you a little hot under the collar with its raw sexuality, then it’s probably not for you. However, I personally found it to be a revelation. Now, I can finally appreciate Bjork for her beautiful music and not her reputation as a crazy person.

Final Score: B+

There are certain bands, within the hipster community, that are code words that members can identify each other with. These are bands like Broken Social Scene, Sigur Ros,  and Arcade Fire (before they got big and “sold out” [ugh]). Although I don’t consider myself to be a part of this sub-culture, I am familiar enough with the music and scene to be able to comment intelligently on it. No band has come to symbolize hipster elitism and inaccessibility more than Animal Collective. This reputation doesn’t exist without reason. Trying to analyze or review an Animal Collectives album is always a difficult task and their 2005 LP Feels is no exception.

My formal introduction to Animal Collective came through their 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavilion. Much like Radiohead’s Kid A, this was an album that I just did not get at first. It was like someone decided to make a Beach Boys record but to stuff it through full with LSD and electronica. I was not prepared. However, multiple listens revealed it to be a quite appropriate successor to the cultural and musical legacy of Pet Sounds and tracks like “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes” quickly became favorites and the album itself now holds a hallowed place for me in the indie pantheon of music. Feels is not like MPP. Each Animal Collective album stakes its own style claim. Only Radiohead and the Beatles are able to successfully recreate themselves as often as these guys do with such positive results. Instead of the electronic sound of MPP, Feels has a heavily guitar sound, of course with the typical AC distortions and technical flourishes, i.e. looping, multi-tracking, etc. It includes two of my favorite songs from the group; “Purple Bottle”, a fast paced manic ode to love that is so wide-eyed in both its sincerity and strangeness and also “Banshee Beat” a strange but haunting track that seems almost too much like a “typical” indie rock song to be AC but yet works on some unlikely levels.

This album really is not for everyone. It’s about as accessible as a David Lynch film or trying to watch a random episode of “The Wire” with no knowledge of the characters or intricate plots. I enjoyed it a lot but even I didn’t know what was going on half the time. Avey Tare and Panda Bear distort and screw around with their vocals so much that it is often hard to understand what in the hell exactly they are saying. Yet if you like Beach Boys or the legion of indie bands that they would go on to inspire, you should at least check this out. It’s going to take multiple listens to crack this album and even then, you probably still won’t know what exactly you listened to, but all things that are great and worth examining require a little work.

Final Score: B+

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