SANTANA — Caravanserai (review)

SANTANA — Caravanserai album cover Album · 1972 · Latin Rock/Soul Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Sean Trane
Well, hardly any words can describe just how fantastic this album. Only one of a handful albums that reach perfection, this stunning chef d’oeuvre, even with this site’s vast choice of albums, I cannot think of five albums ahead of it. The peak in Santana’s career (Carlos’ solo career was not really started yet, either) comes rather early, and unfortunately will not be equalled again, although they will come close with Borboletta. By now, the classic Santana group was becoming a loose aggregation of great musicians, this album marks also the turning point between the first and second era of the group. The first departure woula happen after this album, while some future members made their apparition. While the previous albums were just collection of songs and I would not call this album a full-blown concept album, there is definetely a theme all the way through (outside stunning musical beauty that is): every song flow from each other so naturally that you will actually feel that there are just one track per album.

As opposed to their previous three albums, the feeling is drastically different and you know that there will be many adventures from the extatic exhilaration to the stunning and reflective introspection. With a solidly almost-atonal opening track telling you that your musical trip will be as wonderfully strange as a Touareg caravan crossing the Sahara, the album gets a kickstart with Waves Within and segues into the majestic Look Up where the band is in full stride and now compleyely unleashed. And by now you have barely just left the banks of the Nile River heading for the Atlantic Coast, so you can imagine the amazing trip still laying ahead. Just In Time In See The Sun is one of two sung tracks and although short is yet another highlight of the album. The first side closes on the lengthier Song Of The Wind (where Carlos delivers some of his most delightful guitar lines) and All The Love In The Universe (the other sung track), this is one of the most perfect type of jazz-rock with many ecstatic moments.

Leaving Lake Tchad (the halfway mark and watering hole in your trip) behind you, you are heading straight for the forbidden city: Mali’s Timbuktu with still quite a few marvels laying before your path. The sun-drenched (more like sun-baked) Future Primitive is evocative of all the traps laying in the desertic and arid lanscapes and is a fitting almost free improv. The mildly Arabian scales in the intro of Stone Flowers (probably referring to the sandroses) indicates that the trip is not always easy for the occidental youth, but the ultimate goal is at hand reaching the fabbled oasis. Clearly another peak is reached with Fuente Del Ritmo as you attack the lasdt quarter of the desert trek on your way to Dakar. This track sets aén incredible tension in the music with its 100 MPH cruising speed, the album reaching its apex: this track shows just how superb and awesome the band could be, and presenting for the first time Tom coster on the electric piano. The only flaw of the album comes from the fade-out of the track failing to create a real link with the apotheosis of the album, the closing 9-min Every Step Of The Way. I have a hard time thinking of a track that tops the musical tension created on this track: after a slowly increasing crescendo, the track suddendly jumps to a cosmic speed and some of the wildest musical landscapes ever: from the saturated flute solo, to the first guitar solo, solemnly underlined by a superb brass section for increased dramatic effects, you are just waiting to see if the orgasm will come when that one note will deliver your intellectual wad. And it does come (and so will you) in the form of a single guitar note (but the one you waited your whole life for), it releases all the built-up tensions and Dakar is in sight. Surely you have succeded in your internal quest for freedom of the mind and cannot be anything else but completely happy. You can ejaculate in the ocean.... I certainly believe that in the genre, no other albums comes even close to the mastery of this album, at least in the evocational power of the music. A true trip into the meanders of your brain, this album is more essential than anything that the prog big five have made. And I am hardly exagerating... ;-)

Uuuuhhh, Max!?!? About creating that sixth star rating, I asked you for.................

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