CARLOS SANTANA — Love Devotion Surrender (with John McLaughlin)

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CARLOS SANTANA - Love Devotion Surrender (with  John McLaughlin) cover
3.78 | 20 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 1973

Filed under Fusion


A1 A Love Supreme 7:48
A2 Naima 3:09
A3 The Life Divine 9:30
B1 Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord 15:45
B2 Meditation 2:45

Total time - 38:57

CD (2003)bonus Tracks:
6. A Love Supreme (Alternate - Take 2)
7. Naima (Alternate - Take 4)


- Carlos Santana / guitars, vocals
- John McLaughlin / Guitar, piano
- Larry Young / organ
- Doug Rauch / bass
- Billy Cobham / drums
- Don Alias / drums
- Jan Hammer / drums
- Mike Shrieve / drums
- Armando Peraza / Congas, Bongos

About this release

Columbia KC 32034 (US)

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition and snobb for the updates


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Love Devotion and Surrender” is an odd one in the Carlos Santana discography. Released in 1973 when jazz fusion had hit a popularity peak and had enticed rockers like Carlos and Jeff Beck to take part in the genre, this will be one of a few full fusion albums that Carlos will release during this time. Santana is joined on here by the flamboyant John McLaughlin as they pay tribute to both John Coltrane and Sri Chimnoy. The spiritual jazz of Coltrane and Pharoh Sanders is a big influence on here, but so is the macho rockin jazz fusion of the day, making for a sometimes clumsy hybrid.

The album opens with Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, which is given a huge electric mystical 70s hippie sound that is attractive at first, but as McLaughlin and Santana flail at each other with ill-advised lick trading exercises, the track becomes more of an athletic workout than something more musical. Fortunately this is the only song on which they ‘battle’ each other in this fashion. “Naima” is played acoustically and in very good taste, but their performance doesn’t offer anything new to this often recorded ballad. Side one closes out with “The Life Divine”, on which the two guitarists get to stretch out without the annoying frantic lick trading of the opening cut. Many great drummers are credited on this album, but there is no doubt that it is Billy Cobham on “Life Divine”, his distinctive drum roll makes it obvious.

Side two is taken up mostly with “Let Us Go into the House of the Lord”, possibly the best track on the album and one in which the two guitarists are allowed to stretch out unfettered and finally organist Larry Young is allowed to take a ride. Larry eschews the more rockin style of his band mates and turns in the most interesting solo on the album. Unfortunately, the last part of his solo is almost buried by McLaughlin’s insistent rhythm playing. The album closes with another short ballad featuring McLaughlin’s rather pedestrian piano playing.

The opening of this album promises good things to come with its big open psychedelic sound and spirited energy, but as things develop, many of the solos are not that interesting as they lean heavily on repeating rock riffs delivered with the subtlety of a sledge hammer. All of the performers could have done well to pay attention to Larry Young’s approach as he swells in and out of the mix adding tamboura like colors that blend well with the electric guitars and the multitude of percussion. Very much a product of its time, “Love, Devotion and Surrender” is for those who like the excesses that marked what was both good and bad musically in the 70s.
When this album came out in July of 1973 my favorite LP at the time was “Caravanserai” and my favorite guitar player was John McLaughlin so I figured it would be an endeavor that had no chance of disappointing my ears. I surmised it wouldn’t sound much like the bands Santana or The Mahavishnu Orchestra and I was right. Yet I was still surprised by what it turned out to be. Over the years I’ve wafted back and forth between thinking it is a brilliant specimen of jazz/rock fusion for a while and then there are times when I consider it to be a mostly noisy display of self-indulgent excess. As of the most recent listen I find myself somewhere in the middle of those two opinions so it means you’ll be getting a fairly unbiased and accurate essay about “Love Devotion Surrender” in the next few paragraphs.

Both musicians were going through some big changes at the time. Carlos’ highly successful group had repeatedly conquered the singles charts but he was growing tired of the rut they’d found themselves in and had started to steer the ensemble into the more exciting yet risky territory of fusion. They were still a viable, somewhat stable entity but in the other corner the very influential combo of virtuosos that John had assembled and led was beginning to break apart because of inner conflicts. A few years earlier McLaughlin had introduced Santana to Guru Sri Chinmoy and a deep, spiritual-based friendship developed between them. Carlos was also in awe of John’s amazing skill and technique on the guitar so it appears that collaboration between the two was inevitable. Using their mutual admiration for John Coltrane’s envelope-pushing work as a foundation, they got it done in two intense sessions held in October of ’72 and March of ’73. I was thrilled with the prospect of greatness coming out of their union and bought it the day it was released.

“A Love Supreme” (a version of Coltrane’s “Acknowledgement”) starts with an explosion of sounds, then drops into Doug Rauch’s hypnotic bass line grooving over the track’s uncomplicated drums and percussion. After some organ noodlings courtesy of Larry Young Santana and McLaughlin duke it out back and forth like electrified maniacs and the result is extremely combustible as they goad one another to higher and higher peaks of passion. After a spell of this intensity the number backs off for some loose chanting of the song’s title by conga man Armando Peraza. I dare say that if this cut doesn’t do much for you then the rest of the album will not be something you’ll enjoy. Coltrane’s emotional composition “Naima” from 1959 is next and the beauty and etherealness created by the duo’s acoustic guitars is very refreshing, especially after surviving the fire of the opening song.

Billy Cobham’s boisterous drums make a huge impression throughout “The Life Divine,” making it the most arresting track on the album. Having said that, I could’ve used a lot less of the off-key chanting that consistently interrupts the flow of the music. A little bit of a repeating mantra goes a long way, fellas. Here each guitarist gets his own uninterrupted solo and, despite Carlos delivering some of his fieriest salvos, John absolutely bedazzles the mind with his speed-of-light shredding. Amidst all this six-string conflagration Rauch’s solid bass work does a great job of keeping things from disintegrating into chaos. The traditional “Let Us Go into the House of The Lord” follows and, at almost 16 minutes, it is by far the longest jam on the record. It opens with a free-form melee of drums, percussion and guitars colliding over what sounds like random organ chords and then settles into a fast-paced, conga-led Latin samba rhythm. This inaugurates a more defined movement, establishing a firm base for yet another Godhead-cutting guitar duel. Atonal organ spasms from Young break up the monotony after a while and then, after a cooling-down segment, McLaughlin indulges in a demonstration of his edgy, jazz-on-the-fringe-of-sanity approach to guitar playing. Santana jumps in on top of him at one point and they play simultaneously, setting the studio ablaze in the process before the number finally peters out from exhaustion. The closer is John’s “Meditation,” on which he plays some lovely piano and Carlo performs on acoustic guitar. It’s an atmospheric piece that provides a peaceful finale to their project.

What’s amazing to me is that, as wildly eclectic as this album is at times, it climbed all the way up to #14 on the LP charts. Even taking into consideration that some buyers mistakenly thought they were getting another dose of classic Santana fare instead of other-worldly explorations into the spiritual ether, that fact shows that the public in general was much more adventurous and open-minded in the 70s. The photographs on the album cover didn’t exactly give the impression that this was a pop record, either. They look like two reflective family members at a cousin’s wedding on the front and like two uniform-clad college freshmen posing with their Indian dorm supervisor on the back. No, I think that the tens of thousands that purchased “Love Devotion Surrender” knew they weren’t going to be hearing anything like “Black Magic Woman” on this disc yet I suspect that they got more evolutionary jazz than they bargained for in the deal. This is truly a one-of-a-kind happening that allowed a couple of outstanding guitarists in their prime to stretch themselves without restraint to the limits of their abilities and to hell with the consequences. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it is incredibly unique in the realm of jazz/rock fusion.
Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin team up to channel something of Coltrane’s spirit.

‘Love Devotion Surrender’ is, unsurprisingly, a maelstrom of guitar work. Both leaders bring parts of their respective bands to the sessions, unleashing a powerful set of songs that are either Coltrane interpretations (‘Niama’ and Pt 1: Acknowledgement, retitled ‘A Love Supreme’ here) or attempts to incorporate some of his approach to music. It’s a restless album but is hardly disappointing.

The explosion of guitar heard throughout the record is held together by Cobham and Shrieve (among others) on drums and Rauch on bass, and who do the admirable job of speeding up matra-like rhythms and keeping the two guitarists grounded. The twin attack and interplay of guitarists is (mostly) highly effective, though it doesn’t really let up except for a few moments, such as the acoustic guitar of ‘Niama’ or the acoustic piano in McLaughlin contribution ‘Meditation.’

These short moments of peace are not indicative of the whole album. Opener ‘A Love Supreme’ and ‘The Life Divine’ are almost frantic. Even the traditional song ‘Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord’ roars along, though it begins to sound tired before it’s fifteen minutes are up, coming as it does, on the heels of the stunning ‘The Life Divine’ a piece much more varied and satisfying. Organist Larry Young shines, as do the drumming duo, propelling the guitarists to new heights. Here especially, Santana is impressive, providing his usual sustain-soul, whereas McLaughlin supplies more flash and aggression, not only during this, his second composition on the record, but across the whole album.

Pushing deeper into jazz-rock fusion than ‘Caravanserai,’ this album must have shattered the hopes of those Santana fans who were clinging to the slim hope of another hit single in 1973. Instead, it will delight fans of either guitarist and should be of interest to those looking into jazz-rock fusion. Four stars.

Members reviews

Essential fusion record which is a must for any decent jazz rock/fusion collection, "Love, Devotion, Surrender" is not an easy listen. It takes more than a few spins to appreciate. However, I will not rate it with full 5 stars due to somewhat overdone vocals and here and there typically unneeded McLaughlin's guitar extravagant soloing. But, everything else, meaning: the invocation of John Coltrane spirit, compositions, performances and overall sound and feel are perfect and it is highly recommended. This album is also a testament to the time when both artists adopted their famous second names Devadip and Mahavishnu respectively, under the influence of their guru Sri Chinmoy.
The combination of Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, together with members of both men's respective bands, producing an album revisiting the music of John Coltrane proves to be less than the sum of its parts. The fusion treatment of Coltrane's works is interesting, but can hardly stand up to Coltrane's original performances - I personally find that, perhaps because they were composed long before the fusion revolution, the songs fit much better in an older tradition of experimental jazz and don't translate well to a fusion treatment. As for the original pieces, you're left with the impression that both men were keeping the best material back for their day jobs. An interesting collaboration, but not an essential one.
Sean Trane
After the artistically perfect Caravanserai and the first departure from his original group, Carlos had also developed an interest in eastern philosophy and became a student of Guru Sri Chimnoy along with his buddy John McLaughlin. Both started their spiritual names, respectively Devadip Carlos and Mahavishnu John. Generally this writer is not a fan of those so—called eastern philosophies (all too often being religious sects), but in this case it did not affect the two guitarist’s performance and might have even inspired them to their better works (John with Inner Mounting Flame and Birds Of Fire and Carlos with Caravanserai and Borboletta) and their collaboration would be just as fabulous.

This album is homage to jazz giant John Coltrane and this very present album is no stranger or foreign factor to this writer’s appreciation of the giant Trane. As a matter of fact, Carlos’ two Trane albums (this one and Illuminations) and Christian Vander’s Magma are the main highways that lead me to jazz, bebop and later free jazz, RIO and Contemporary classical music. Clearly the album draws on Coltrane mythic album A Love Supreme, which represent his artistic peak, as almost everyone will agree. Although both guitarists having brought some of their respective group’s members (Rauch, Peraza and Shrieve for Carlos and Young, Cobham and Hammer for John), both guitarist being on the same Columbia label, the album will be considered more of a Santana solo album (check in the store shelves) than a McLaughlin solo. Go figure why, though.

Right from the opening track, we are plunged in the third movement of Trane’ ALS, right around one of the only place when you hear Coltrane singing. Well here Carlos and John are just wailing in front of Larry Young’s great organ. The second track is an acoustic reprise of Naima (a Coltrane classic) where McLaughlin is clearly on lead guitar. The next A Life Divine is a McLaughlin inspiration on the same theme than the opener, but Carlos gets some choice leads. Since both guitarists have such distinctive styles, it is quite fun to follow what each is doing. The major track of the album is the lengthy House Of The Lord where the two compadres are simply having a ball at it. The album closes on a short McLaughlin acoustic track.

The only weak point of this album is the uninventive artwork when knowing that both Santana and Mahavishnu Orchestra were dishing at minimum interesting covers and at best fascinating sleeves. If like me you fear some kind of religious recuperation (the only one being financial since all proceeds from the albums go into the guru’s well-being), rest assured that after three decades of listening to this album, I am still quite resisting to any kind of religious bewitchment or recruiting.

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