SANTANA — Caravanserai (review)

SANTANA — Caravanserai album cover Album · 1972 · Latin Rock/Soul Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
For jazz fans and fans of jazz/rock fusion, 'Caravanserai' is their best.

'Santana' get close to a track-for-track classic here, and it's exciting to see them do so. During the departure of Schon and Rolie (guitar and piano & organ respectively), this line-up of the band had Santana and drummer Shrieve firmly at the helm in creating a mostly glorious jazz fusion album that stretched far beyond anything Santana had created to date.

It's a bold move that probably frustrated record executives looking for another 'Black Magic Woman' to no end. From it's atmospheric opening 'Eternal Caravan Of Reincarnation', complete with crickets, double bass and an almost tortured sax intro, it spoke of the change to come.

The album is full of fantastic guitar work and impressive rhythm playing, along with the Latin percussion that was to be expected and the thoughtful work of Shrieve, who was obviously channeling 'Maiden Voyage' with the track 'Waves Within', easily one of the best on the album. A Shaft-esque moment with 'Look Up (To See What's Coming Down)' is followed by one of the only vocal tracks on the album, 'Just in Time to See the Sun.'

Most songs run together into terms of mood and structure, forming movements or suites that are generally highly effective. As ever, Carlos' soloing is exceptional, especially on clear album highlight 'Song of the Wind' which is a work of art. Stunning stuff. Side One ends with 'All the Love of the Universe' another track with vocals, and the to-be-expected fiery guitar work.

Side Two is where the songwriting dips for me, and prevents the album from going to five stars. It opens with 'Future Primitive' and while it treads similar ground in some way as the album opener (if eventually more frantic) the idea is not as effective the second time around, even if it does provide nice symmetry. This track is followed by probably the weakest vocal cut 'Stone Flower' and is in turn followed by the racing rhythms of 'La Fuente del Ritmo', which is vaguely reminiscent of 'Toussaint L'Overture' from 'Santana III' but with space for some nice electric piano soloing from Costa. 'Every Step of the Way' closes the album, and is not ineffective by any means, but doesn't feel as strong as the rest of the album to me. Four stars.

A worthwhile addition to any jazz-fusion fan's collection, and a real creative high point for the band. Just don't buy this one if you're looking for radio hits.
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