'Welcome' is an uneven release but does have enough moments to make it worthwhile.
Obviously, as Santana's first album written completely without Rolie and Schon (who were replaced by Leon Thomas (vocals) and Tom Coster on various organs) constituted a change in sound. While some of the pop feel returned, some of the jazz left. 'Welcome' included a large lineup with multiple singers and featured high profile guests like John McLaughlin and Flora Purim.
In general, the instrumental tracks are more memorable than the vocal cuts here. 'Going Home' is a large build-up to the opening notes of 'Love, Devotion and Surrender' which is something of a mix between chanting and a typical pop song. Pieces like the percussion heavy 'Mother Africa' recall the Santana of old, but with a saxophone solo taking the place of lead guitar. 'Samba de Sausalito' is another good instrumental but neither are quite as engaging as 'Flame-Sky' with its guest appearance from McLaughlin, the two guitarists create something equal to anything the two came up with their previous collaboration, and also features a stand out performance from Shrieve. The longest track on the album at over 11 minutes, it's also one of the best jazz-rock moments in Santana's recorded history.
Vocal songs like 'When I Look into your Eyes' and 'Light of Life' are a little cheesy (especially lyrically) and stick out, whereas the mostly wordless appearance by Pruim on 'Yours is the Light' is much more effective. 'Welcome' closes the album in similar fashion to the opener.
Due to its uneven nature, it's three stars for me. Santana fans will want this one, there is enough of his trademark soloing and interesting instrumentals to make 'Welcome' worthwhile. More casual fans may want to stick with their early albums and fusion fans should check out 'Caravanserai' instead.
The reissue includes the restless 'Mantra' which is an outtake that would have been a suitable replacement for the title track.