70 FROM ’70 — THE TOP TEN — #2

2. SANTANA — Abraxas

What keeps a half-century-old LP fresh? Lots of possibilities, but in the case of Santana’s second LP, it is the superbly blended mix of different styles and influences that propels the record like an eternal multi-cultural street festival. Many know the infectious blues-rock interpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s “Black Magic Woman” or the delightful instrumental “Samba Pa Ti” but there is also jazz-rock (“Incident at Neshabur”) and the full-on strut of “Hope You’re Feeling Better”. Throw in a charged up cover of salsa legend Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va”* and you win five gold stars for eclecticism.

And let’s not forget another splendid Mati Klarwein cover.

The original painting is called “Annunciation” and was completed in 1961. Although I recognised the title as having something to do with Christian mythology, I couldn’t quite get it from Mati’s painting. A little research revealed this as the diary date in Mary’s life when the archangel Gabriel dropped in with some breaking news. It went something like this:

Mary: G'day mate. Nice wings.

Gabriel: Ta. Gotta mo'?

Mary: Sure. Hubby's due back soon, but dinner's on the stove so we're good. BTW, what's that thing on your head?

Gabe: A halo.

Mary: Bet it chews up the batteries.

Gabe: Solar power. You're in the running for one yourself, but that's not important yet.

Mary: O...kay...

Gabe: So. You know how you and Jo haven't been having any luck trying for a kid?

Mary: [raises eyebrow] Sorry, who did you say you were?

Gabe: Check the wings. [Beat] Hon, I have good news and bad news...

[Those after the rest of the story can find it in Luke 1:26-38]

Gives you a different perspective on the cover, doesn’t it?

Points to Sundazed for the facsimile poster included in their 2009 re-issue

FOOTNOTE: Abraxas is an ancient Greek word. The 7 letters represent each of the 7 classic celestial bodies—Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung wrote a brief Gnostic treatise in 1916 called The Seven Sermons to the Dead, which called Abraxas a god higher than the Christian god and devil, combining all opposites into one Being. Now you know.

*Tito Puente was known as “The King of Latin Music”. He was born in New York of Puerto Rican parents in 1923, and died in 2000.


Does Abraxas put a little salsa in your hips?


  1. I love everything about this post, Bruce! I love that Mati Klarwein connects Santana to Miles Davis (among others). I love the repartee between Mary and Gabriel (composed by you, I trust?), and I love learning the meaning of Abraxas! I’d had no idea. So thanks for officially making this a good day (definition = a day in which I learn something new). Oh, and, of course I love the music. This was one of a handful of albums discovered at a tender age; I was 8 when it was released and my sister and brother, 17 and 20 years old, were big fans of Carlos…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, JDB, both for the feedback and the personal connection. Love those stories.
      As I wrote the music paragraph a couple of months back (adding the satellite sections more recently) I reckon I’ll break out the LP today. After all, it’s sunny here and Santana and sun just go together (like Mati Klarwein and curvaceous ladies). 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Santana’s classic period and this album in particular.

    I had the thrill experience to see Santana with the surviving members of the classic Santana band (Gregg Rolie, Neal Schon, Michael Carabello and Michael Shrieve) in 2016 during the tour that supported their then-new album Santana IV.

    While they were performing, they had footage from Woodstock on a giant screen in the back of the stage. The video alternated between the Woodstock footage and the guys performing on stage. Most of the music they played were from the first three albums. It was just super cool.

    Or as some Germans say, “oberaffengeil!” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like a fantastic concert! For me the first five are all outstanding – and that’s pretty amazing by any standards!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A fine choice for the penultimate album in the countdown, Bruce.
    I had the good fortune of finding this LP (cover not in great shape, but record plays just fine) for $5.
    I didn’t think that Return on Investment could be topped – and yet it somehow was when Aaron from keepsmealive sent me the Abraxas 8-track in the mail!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 8-Tracks are just kind of cool, aren’t they. I can’t recall whether you have a player or not?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do!
        Though I can’t say the audio quality of my player is anywhere approaching exemplary, it’s still a fun format to have as a novelty!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Indeed. You don’t see that many cartridges in these parts. I think by the time they started gaining popularity in Aus, cassettes were already becoming the dominant tape form.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Such exciting music. I’m hoping that my memory of listening to this for the first time at Louise’s flat at four in the morning as the horses started pulling the milk carts out from Ormond dairy, opposite, is not a fanciful reconstruction. Regardless, it is a blessed memory.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It IS exciting, DD. Spot on. And that it still has that energy, that electricity, is a tribute to Carlos and the lads.
      Ah, horse-drawn milk carts. We’re old, cuz.


      1. As long as we age like Abraxas, that’ll be alright.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. 🙂 Well said, sir.


  5. Listening to ‘Hope You’re Feeling Better’ as I comment. I think we’ve been down this road also. Here we go again. Never gets old.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In a way, the upper reaches of this countdown were always going to involve re-visits to old favourites I guess. “Hope you’re feeling better” is a great cut.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Re – visits to old favorites is what we do. I love the line up on this record. I am going to keep re – visiting it for a while longer. I would suspect you will do the same thing.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True. Factoid: Caravanserai is my go to album for the first warm evening of summer.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. When the big crossover to the new cd format happened, that was the first one i grabbed (Still holding onto the original vinyl). Your description makes me want to listen to it.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. CB, I love it. Wait for a warm evening, grab a glass of something appealing…

              Liked by 1 person

  6. I do think I’ve shared my shared love of this album in VC pages before so how about this: While living and working in Mexico City circa 1998 – and where I find myself at the moment coincidentally – my wife and I saw and salsa-danced to Tito Puente and his band in a relatively small hotel ballroom. They started playing about midnight and we’re still going strong at 2:30AM when I forced the Mrs to take me home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fabulous image. Sadly, having only ever been a wallflower, I can only sigh with admiration at the picture of a salsa-ing VotF.


  7. A recent buy for me Bruce, I really like it too. I have a rubbish cheapo 80’s version, with crap quality vinyl you can almost see through – BUT the quality still shines on through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see what you did with see through/shines through, Mr S. Very neat. If you get the opportunity, treat yourself to an upgrade. Although my Sundazed re-press is very good, I’d l o v e the mofi version.

      Liked by 1 person

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