Tuesday, 26 July 2016

"Caravanserai" by SANTANA (2003 Columbia/Legacy CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





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"...Just In Time To See The Sun..."

The Latin-Rock of SANTANA took the world by storm back in the day - aided and abetted by a soaring appearance at the legendary Woodstock festival mere weeks before their debut appeared in September 1969 on Columbia Records in the USA and CBS Records in good old Blighty (see my review for "Santana: The Woodstock Experience"). September 1970's magisterial "Abraxas" soared to No. 1 in September 1970 and "Santana III" hit the top stop too in October of 1971.

But after patience stretching wig-outs with John McLaughlin and Buddy Miles in-between proper Santana studio albums - somehow the 'fizz' had gone off their sales by the time this deeply gorgeous and swirling Jazz Fusion LP arrived in October 1972. Even its eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing gatefold cover of far-away deserts and sun-drenched landscapes failed to get the public into a buying tizzy and it managed a more humble No. 8 on the US charts (No. 6 in the UK) compared to the genre-busting heights of its two predecessors.

But over the decades it's become a stone flower 'classic'. The trippy and largely instrumental "Caravanserai" has always been a fan's album – a less commercial affair than before and a sign of Carlos not wanting to rest of his laurels and stretch out musically – even if it meant fracturing his hugely successful band and the formula that won them those gold-discs. In fact I'd argue that in a long and amazing career that still clocks up huge sales to this day (2016) – their fourth studio set is something of an 'overlooked' nugget. And more importantly Bob Irwin and Vic Anesini's stunning remaster of it for Columbia has only made me slaver all over "Caravanserai" yet again. Here are the waves within (man)...

UK released October 2003 - "Caravanserai" by SANTANA on Columbia/Legacy 511128 2 (Barcode 5099751112822) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 1972 album and plays out as follows (51:33 minutes):

1. Eternal Caravan Of Reincarnation
2. Waves Within
3. Look Up (To See What's Coming Down)
4. Just In Time To See The Sun
5. Song Of The Wind
6. All The Love In The Universe
7. Future Primitive [Side 2]
8. Stone Flower
9. La Fuente Del Ritmo
10. Every Step Of The Way
Tracks 1 to 10 are their fourth studio album "Caravanserai" - released October 1972 in the USA on Columbia KC 31610 and November 1972 in the UK on CBS Records S 65299. Produced by CARLOS SANTANA and MICHAEL SHRIEVE - it peaked at No. 8 in the USA and No. 6 in the UK LP charts.

The 10-leaf foldout inlay has excellent liner notes from HAL MILLER with quotes from original Producer Michael Shrieve – the 'Metaphysical Meditations' quotation that was on the inner gatefold of original vinyl LPs as well as track-by-track musician credits and a half decent colour representation of that gorgeous artwork. Even the Columbia CD matches the original LP label and there’s a picture of that distant camel train beneath the see-through CD tray.

But the big news is a new BOB IRWIN and VIC ANESINI CD Remaster. These guys did the transfers at Sony’s Studios in New York and ANESINI in particular is a name I've sung the praises of before. He’s handled very prestigious SONY catalogue – Elvis Presley, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carole King, Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Nilsson, Paul Simon, Mountain, Lou Reed, Roy Orbison, Santana, Mott The Hoople and The Jayhawks to name but a few. Clean – full of presence and warmth – this thing is a joy to listen too – and after years of clicking through quite passages of tinkling cymbals and rattling congas on my trusty old vinyl original – the audio here is a welcome revelation...

"Caravanserai" opens with a crickets-chirping fade in – Percussion provided by James Mango Lewis and Carlos Santana as Hadley Caliman does those strangulated but Sahara-atmospheric Saxophone notes – Neal Schon (later with Journey) handling the Guitar. Then suddenly we get Tom Rutley on Acoustic Bass and Wendy Haas giving it some echoing electric Piano and we’re off into a different set of Santana waters. That segues into "Waves Within" where Carlos takes over the Lead Guitar and we become immediately aware of another integral hero of the band - Gregg Rolie's presence on Organ anchoring the whole soaring fusion piece. Things Funk Up big time with "Look Up (To See What's Coming Down)" - like Carlos has discovered his inner Sly Stone - a fantastic groove with the whole band cooking. Introducing unconvincing vocals into "Just In Time To See The Sun" kind of ruins an otherwise great groove - but all that is that is flattened by what has to be an all-time fave-crave for Santana fans - the magical "Song Of The Wind". Rolie's organ fades in six-minutes of sublime guitar work by the duo of Santana and Schon with stunning rhythm section support coming off James Lewis and Mike Shrieve. Even now it makes me weepy and reminds me of why I love Santana so much - that 'sound' he gets when he plays and really lets go. Side 1 ends with the Carlos Santana/Neil Schon penned "All The Love Of The Universe" where they and Mingo Lewis share vocals on probably the most 'boppy' number on the album (not the best in my opinion).

Side 2 opens with the spacey "Future Primitive" - floating keyboard notes are soon joined by a frantic Bongo and Conga combination from Jose "Chepito" Areas and James Mingo Lewis - whacking those percussion instruments like they're playing live at a festival and the crowd are cheering them on. Latin superstar Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote "Stone Flower" - the most overtly Latin song on the LP and a fabulous groove of guitars and keyboards. James Mango Lewis penned another fave of mine - the frenzied Salsa and Latin rhythms of "La Fuente Del Ritmo" - all musicians mixing perfectly with Carlos and Neal on dual guitars as James Mingo Lewis keeps it anchored with Acoustic Piano while Tom Coster solos on the Electric Piano - bit of a showstopper this. It ends with "Every Step Of The Way" - eight and half minutes of the Santana Band building up and then letting rip on everything - Guitars, Keyboards, Flute and Percussion. It's sexy and slightly dangerous rhythms are a perfect way to finish the LP...and along with "Song Of The Wind" is another instrumental highlight on an album that contains many...

In some respects it's kind of impossible to categorize "Caravanserai" - but isn't that cool – I loved it then for that and I love it still.

In the eternal caravan of repackaging (if you'll forgive the pun) - I'm quite certain we'll get yet another format in the future - another way to squeeze even more nuances out of this tasty desert-dish. But in the meantime - Legacy's superb CD Remaster of "Caravanserai" is available online for peanuts - cheaper than a camel train nosebag and highly unlikely to spit on you when things get a little hot under the collar as you air-guitar around your living room with a tennis racquet.

Enter here for the 'bosom of infinite joy' people...and as my wife well knows... I’m up for the 'bosom of infinite' anything...

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