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Tuesday, 6 April 2021

"Welcome" by SANTANA – November 1973 US and UK Fifth Studio Album on Columbia and CBS Records featuring Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin on Guitars, Leon Thomas and Flora Purim on Lead Vocals, Tom Coster, Richard Kermode and Wendy Haas on Keyboards, Michael Shrieve and Jose "Chepito" Areas on Drums and Percussion with Arrangements by Alice Coltrane (October 2003 UK Columbia/Legacy Expanded Edition CD Reissue with Bob Irwin and Vic Anesini Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review and 299 More Like It Can Be Found In My AMAZON e-Book 
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"...Yours Is The Light..."

After the difficult to like "Love, Devotion & Surrender" album with John McLaughlin in July 1973 - November 1973's "Welcome" felt like the beginning of the end for me. By the time "Borboletta" arrived in 1974, the splurging-too-much triple live "Lotus" in 1975 and then "Amigos" in 1976 - I'd lost interest.

Hal Miller's ludicrously 'genius' 'masterpiece' 'sublime' liner notes over-egg the "Welcome" pudding somewhat too, but do at least acknowledge the huge difference the keyboard players were making to the evolving Santana sound (Tom Coster and Richard Kermode supplying some of the LP’s best tracks). Unfortunately indulgence like the 12-minute "Flame-Sky" on Side 2 felt like filler to me even if their cover version of John Coltrane's "Welcome" ends the record on a beautifully recorded instrumental shimmer.

But my indifference and increasing boredom to its white-embossed charms notwithstanding - "Welcome" has stubbornly held a place in Santana fan's hearts as a bit of a lost gem over the years. And on re-hearing this stunning Bob Irwin/Vic Anesini Remaster of it, on its better moments, I can actually hear why. Musicianship wise, the band is cooking here. But worse, to my amazement, it sports an Unreleased Session Outtake as a Bonus Track called "Mantra" that I think knocks spots off some of the Leon Thomas sung fluff on the released record (although I can understand why it was canned). Let's get our joyous devotional knickers in a Chinmoy knot - to the Fusion illuminations...

UK released October 2003 - "Welcome" by SANTANA on Columbia/Legacy COL 511130 2 (Barcode 5099751113027) is an Expanded Edition CD Reissue and Remaster with one Bonus Track that plays out as follows (56:50 minutes):

1. Going Home [Side 1]
2. Love, Devotion & Surrender
3. Samba De Sausalito
4. When I Look Into Your Eyes
5. Yours Is The Light
6. Mother Africa [Side 2]
7. Light Of Life
8. Flame-Sky
9. Welcome
Tracks 1 to 9 are their fifth studio album "Welcome" - released November 1973 in the USA on Columbia FC 32245 and November 1973 in the UK on CBS Records S 69040 Produced by CARLOS SANTANA, MICHAEL SHRIEVE and TOM COSTER - it peaked at No. 25 in the USA and No. 8 in the UK.

10. Mantra (Santana, Shrieve and Coster song, 6:10 minutes, recorded April 1973) - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

LEON THOMAS and FLORA PURIM - Lead Duet Vocals on Tracks 2 and 4, Purim on Track 5 and Thomas on Track 7
TOM COSTER, RICHARD KERMODE and WENDY HAAS - Keyboards (Coster also Vocals)
JOSE "Chepito" AREAS and ARMANDO PERAZA - Percussion
ALICE COLTRANE - Arrangements

The two-sided four-leaf foldout inlay features all the musician credits and those May 2003 HAL MILLER liner notes where he assures us that "Welcome" is a masterpiece (it isn't). What is beautiful however is the BOB IRWIN and VIN ANESINI Transfers and Remaster. Both have huge career lists - Anesini has done Santana, Simon & Garfunkel, Elvis Presley, Nilsson, Aerosmith, Mountain, The Jayhawks, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Moby Grape, Lou Reed, Spirit and much more - his resume is huge and impressive. This is a big-sounding Columbia/Legacy CD - instruments racing around your speakers as the huge band vies for your attention and it sounds fab (JEN WYLER mixed the Bonus "Mantra" track). To the music...

I would be the first to decry Leon Thomas' vocals as weedy Terry Callier but not in a good way - so his efforts on the swirling percussiveness of "Love, Devotion & Surrender" kind of do for me even if it does contain Carlos giving it some Soulful notes. I much prefer the Latin Funk of Richard Kermode's "Yours Is The Light" where Flora Purim's lone vocals suit the high-flying bird of a tune. There are beautifully arranged strings to the opening of "Light Of Life" - a very Rotary Connection meets Santana rhythms exploration that has amazing playing on it. My personal crave is the six and half minutes given to their cover of John Coltrane's "Welcome" which feels like "Song Of The Wind" from "Caravanserai" - stunning keyboard work shimmering behind sustained notes. 

It wouldn't be until the double "Moonflower" in October 1977 that I would dig Santana again, but I can so understand why fans return to this largely forgotten white blip in their formidable LP cannon. A lovely sounding CD reissue and it's cheap too...

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