After the incredibly succesful Caranserai and heavenly collab with fellow Sri Chimnoy adept John McLaughlin, Carlos Devadip saw his group starting to fizzle out: Greg Rommie and Neil Schon had left (they will later found Journey as a jazz-rock group that will veer towards the execrable AOR group during the 80’s) and Carlos went towards jazz singer Leon Thomas (Basie and Pharoah Sanders vocalist) and a duo of keyboardist Kermode and the long-lasting Tom Coster.
While the album tries to duplicate somewhat what Caravanserai had achieved, it eventuially fails to do so, on the count of a number of reasons. The first being that the album is much more sung than its predecessor and that Thomas’ voice is just not as convincing as Rollie’s was. The second is that the duo of keyboards fails to match the power that Rollie had with his organ, this notably is Kermode as Coster was already playing electric piano on the previous Caravan. While Schon’s guitars are less noticably absent, it does have an impact on the overall power of the album too.
While the opening Going Home is an impressive instrumental, it is not that succesful due to a wrong choice of synth, cheapening the overall ambiance. Leon Thomas’ voice (coupled with XXX in a duet) is doing nothing to restore the weak Surrender track or the downright half-mediocre When I Look Into Your Eyes, with its unexpected second funky part that compensate a bit. Ditto with the relatively bland Yours Is The Light, where Fiona sings on a latino (salsa if I am not mistaken) beat and a tacky whistle comes in. Simply very kitschy-tacky. The only track to actually equal Caranvanserai on the first side is the instrumental Samba De Sausalito (a San Fran hippie suburb), which does bring some of the magic back.
The second side does start a bit more interestingly with the Mother Africa, with an inhabitual Santana feeling, but it is again ruined by a very controversial Kermode synth, and the following Light Of Your Life is an atrociously sickeningly sweet bonbon, proof that happiness is not everything: I envy bluesman and their perpetual spleen when I hear how corny happy people can sound; The album is however saved by the tremendous Flame Sky (everything indicates this was a leftover from Caravanserai including its title and the predecessor’s artwork): this 11-min+ corker is a real gem that seems so out of place on this album, even if by the energy level not present elsewhere on this album. The closer is also a worthy track and announces Carlos’ next solo venture with Coltrane’s wife Alice. Welcome is one of those reflective John Coltrane written when the great jazzman was at peace with himself. Coster makes a credible McCoy Tyner impression. While the track is slightly too sweet, it does represent well the spiorit of the album. The remastered version of this album is coming with a lengthy bonus track, the excellent, dreamy but rather out-of-place 6-min Mantra.
While I was never a big fan of sung jazz, I am generally even less a fan of sung jazz-rock, and this album is one of the prime example of what not to do. And yes, I am rather harsh with this album, but it is strongly flawed, although clearly not everyone will agree with me. Not quite an essential Santana and edefintely the low point of his 72-75 era.