Wednesday, 22 March 2017

"Santana III: Legacy Edition - Enhanced OPENDISC Version" (2008 Columbia/Legacy 2CD Reissue with 2006 Vic Anesini Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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When Santana's third album was first released September 1971 on vinyl LP in the USA (Columbia KC 30595) it was simply entitled "Santana" – confusing as the 1969 debut (not surprisingly) had exactly the same title. The initial October 1971 British pressings of "III" adopted a more practical approach by calling it "Santana 3" on both the label and a gold sticker affixed to the other gatefold sleeve of CBS Records S 69015 (later British stickers would refer to it as "Santana (The Third Album)” but return to the US credit on the label of just "Santana"). But of course over the years it has become known as "Santana III" for Reissue purposes – especially on CD.

Following on from the hugely popular "Abraxas" in 1970 (their first No.1 album) – fans bought it in droves but reviews and feelings were mixed. And while I don't know about "III" being their 'difficult' third album musically (it became their second No.1 in the USA - difficult or not) - what is confusing is the myriad number of CD reissues surrounding it and I'd like to try to address that before reviewing the music. Here goes...

The first real CD Remaster for "Santana III" came in April 1998 as a single-disc 'Expanded Edition' on Columbia 489544 2 (Barcode 5099748954428 - UK Issue) – a 12-Track Super-Bit Remaster that included Three Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks (41:09 minutes). The extras turned out to be 'Live' Recordings taped 4 July 1971 at San Francisco's Fillmore West (owned by the legendary Bill Graham) - "Batuka", "Jungle Strut" and "Gumbo". That disc is still available on Amazon Reference B00K0OLWXU. [Note: there is a limited edition reissue variant of this CD on Columbia 489544 9 (Barcode 5099748954497) released October 2000 with the same tracks and 'digipak' repro artwork - Amazon Reference is B00004SD4U]

Version 2 arrived April 2006 in UK and Europe and was the 35th Anniversary 2CD 'Legacy Edition' Reissue on Columbia/Legacy 82796902702 (Barcode 827969027028). This first variant came in the then customary outer plastic slipcase with a gatefold foldout digipak contained within and expanded booklets - but was deleted quickly and is now quite hard to find in that presentation - Amazon Reference B000E6EJCK).

But to confuses issues yet further - September 2008 (and again in April 2014) saw the same 2CD 'Legacy Edition' reissued as an 'Enhanced OPENDISC' version on Columbia/Legacy 88697352462 (Barcode 886973524626) - Amazon Reference B00K0OLWXU. Both the 2006 and 2008 'Legacy Edition' variants carry the same physical music - but the 2008 'Opendisc' Reissue is in a double-cd jewel case and has a vastly truncated 8-page booklet. However it offers 'exclusive material' via your Computer and the Web that is not on the original 2006 issue. It is this version I will review (podcasts, radio shows, full liner notes and photos). Here are the details...

UK released 19 September 2008 - "Santana III: Legacy Edition - Enhanced OPENDISC Version" by SANTANA on Columbia/Legacy 88697352462 (Barcode 886973524626) is a 2CD Reissue (2006 Remaster) with Exclusive Content accessed via Computer/Web and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (66:43 minutes):
1. Batuka [Side 1]
2. No One To Depend On
3. Taboo
4. Toussaint L'Overture
5. Everybody's Everything [Side 2]
6. Guarjira
7. Jungle Strut
8. Everything's Coming Our Way
9. Par Los Rumberos
Tracks 1 to 9 are their third studio album "Santana" aka "Santana III" - released September 1971 in the USA on Columbia KC 30595 and October 1971 in the UK on CBS Records S 69015. Produced by SANTANA BAND - it peaked at No. 1 in the USA and No. 6 in the UK.

10. Gumbo
11. Folsom Street One
12. Banbeye
13. No One To Depend On (Single Version) - January 1972 USA 7" Single 'Edit' of 3:13 minutes - A-side on Columbia 4-45552. Released 30 March 1972 as UK 7" single A-side (also an edit) on CBS Records S CBS 7842 (the album track "Taboo" was its B-side in both countries)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 are Previously Unreleased 'Studio' Versions. A Previously Unreleased 'live' version of "Gumbo" appeared on the April 1998 CD Remaster - that track has been moved over to Disc 2 so that the 2nd CD is a cohesive 'full concert' of the 4 July 1971 date at The Fillmore West in San Francisco.

Disc 2 (57:51 minutes):
1. Batuka
2. No One to Depend On
3. Toussaint L'Overture
4. Taboo
5. Jungle Strut
6. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen
7. Incident At Neshabur
8. In A Silent Way
9. Savor
10. Para Los Rumberos
11. Gumbo
All Tracks recorded 4 July 1971 at The Fillmore West in San Francisco. Tracks 1, 5, and 11 were the Bonus trio of Tracks on the 1998 CD Remaster - Track 7 and 8 first appeared on the July 1972 3LP Box Set "Fillmore - The Last Days" on Fillmore Records Z3X-31390 - reissued February 1991 as a 2CD set in the USA on Columbia Z2K 31390 - Tracks 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED.

First up is the ludicrous 'Opendisc' set up – only available to those who use PCs and Microsoft Windows (I use a Mac so its useless to me). You supposedly enter Disc 1 into your computer and it asks you join-up to a website - but mates of mine who have PCs have said it fails - most likely because the site is no longer active. Apparently the last updated element on their website was 2012 - so I'm essentially left with a 2CD set that calls itself a 'Legacy Issue' but has none of the full annotation the original had because its all supposed to be accessible online. The only upside is that this variant is cheap – less than seven quid in some places – whilst the deleted 2006 original with its distinctive 'Legacy Edition' plastic slipcase is pushing near thirty. All that reissue shenanigans aside - let's get to the music...

Audio Engineer VIC ANESINI has mastered the Legacy Edition - and his is a name I actively seek out when it comes to quality transfers. His skills can be found on a lot of much-praised Columbia releases – Elvis Presley, Carole King, Simon & Garfunkel, Mountain, Nilsson, Paul Simon, The Isley Brothers, Mott The Hoople, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Jayhawks and Santana (to name but a few). The Audio sound stage here is wonderful – full of huge presence - the massive rhythm sections in Santana threatening to invade your living room and set up summer camp there. A sweet job done...

III opens with "Batuka" - a stunning fusion instrumental with Carlos letting rip. Percussionists Michael Carabello and Coke Escobedo came up with the winner "No One To Depend On". Recorded 16 June 1971 - the full album version runs to 5:31 minutes with Gregg Rolie on Lead Vox with Rico Reyes providing those back-up chorus vocals. But I actually prefer the more economical 7" single edit - a smart inclusion on Disc 1 as a Bonus Track. Keyboardist/Vocalist Gregg Rolie and Percussionist Jose Areas contributed my other fave-rave on the album - the brilliant Santana slink of "Taboo" - the remaster giving sexy life to those swirling guitars and that Tabla rhythm - the closest the album gets to the brilliance of "Abraxas". In fact when I think about the full 5:34 minute album version of "Taboo" on the B-side of edited "No One To Depend On" – that’s one helluva 45. The six-minute Side 1 finisher "Toussaint L'Overture" is a band effort - Michael Shrieve and Carlos amidst the six-name credits. It's a Latin-Rock Funk-Fusion wig out - pulsing and racing with life and rhythms and that feeling that somehow this music is still new and fresh. 

Party-time arrives with the brassy "Everybody's Everything" - the Tower of Power horn section aided by a stunning Neal Schon guitar solo (a 17-year old with dreams of Journey only a couple of years later). Apparently its an adaptation of a song called "Karate Boogaloo" by The Emperors on Brunswick 55333 in 1967 - hence the triple credit to Carlos Santana, Tirone Moss and Milton D Brown. September 1971 saw the US 7" single for "Everybody's Everything" issued on Columbia 4-45472 with "Guarjira" on the flipside - it peaked at No. 12 on the US singles charts. I must admit I find "Jungle Strut" (a Gene Ammons song) and especially the weedy vocals on "Everything's Coming our Way" the least interesting stuff on the album - but the Tito Puente cover "Para Los Rumberos" brings it all back to their Latin roots with breakneck percussion.

For me what makes this whole release worth it is the Bonus Material - especially that live concert now all lumped together onto Disc 2. Back to Disc 1 for a moment. I frankly think the 'studio' version of "Gumbo" rocks like a mother - a four-minute guitar fest from Carlos Santana and Neal Schon. But the seven-minute "Fulsom Street - One" instrumental outtake is the stuff of Funky Latin legend. Recorded January 1971 (early in the sessions) - man is this band cooking - bopping and swaying - that sexy rhythm now given flute flourishes and extended piano/guitar solos. As a guy who loves his Soul with a Funky Rock tip - I'm absolutely eating this sucker up. Then we get hit with 10:21 minutes of "Banbeye" recorded a month later in February 1971. Again a sexy rhythm is set up with percussion and piano and chanting voices - but its nearly seven minutes before Carlos comes sailing in - testing the waters with distant guitar notes. As the Tabla pounds and the drums whack all around your speakers - it's a rhythm romance for ten minutes and an outtake for sure - but such a pleasing one after all these years.

The live show features a slick full album two-track combo version of "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen" followed shortly afterwards by a song you don't hear too many people cover - Joe Zawinul's "In A Silent Way" from his 1971 Atlantic records debut LP. It’s a seven-minute piece with beautiful 'feel' playing from Carlos - sensual to start with - then sexy funky thereafter and finally arriving back at vibes and shimmering guitar notes. What a sweet find. Abraxas fans will also love the relatively short 5:28 minutes of "Incident At Neshabur" as opposed to the sidelong live effort on 1973's "Lotus". And on it goes with a barnstorming "Savor" where you can feel the rafters shaking and the Fillmore crowd grooving....

The 2CD 'Legacy Edition' of "Santana III" is a triumph musically - but you'd have to dock it a star for this 'doesn't really work' Opendisc version that short changes punters on the annotation and non-accessible online-content fronts.

But man oh man - the music - that Santana boy and his band could play...

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