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Santana III (Legacy Edition) – Santana

Columbia/Legacy 82796 902702

Because Carlos Santana’s recording career has turned into a variety show with guest appearances on his past three albums outweighing the weight of the material and its explosive Latin rock instrumentation, his place as a groundbreaking artist whose work should be viewed as one of the roots of the jamband scene can be understandably forgotten. Released in 1971, III, the last album he made with his stellar original line up, which included future Journey-men Greg Rollie on vocals and keyboards and a teenage Neal Schon on guitar, offers a reminder of Santana’s past and how vital this music is for listeners in the present.

Taken as a whole, III is a monster of a release with each track allowing the musicians’ prowess and connection to the Santana sound to influence and elevate each other — from the funky opening (“Batuka”), soul-drenched rave (“Everybody’s Everything” with the Tower Of Power horns), and Latin-influenced stops (“No One To Depend On,” “Para Los Rumberos”). Whether it was a subconscious feeling that this was their last stand or the members had reached that plain of existence where it’s not as much about improvisation as it is about creative interlocking and the awareness of dropping in what notes where and when make this one goodgodallmighty major final document.

As for the worth of the bonus tracks, other than the single version of “No One To Depend On,” which may be of interest to completists but isn’t essential, the three remaining tracks must have not made it on to the final version of III simply because it would have padded it out past a single piece of vinyl. The band thought enough of “Gumbo” that it was played during its Fillmore West set, which makes up disc two of this double CD set. “Folsom Street One” is a jam that wouldn’t be out of place during a late night gig at Bonnaroo, while “Banbeye” and its drum circle trance-like vibe finds its musical soul lifted from the traditions of Africa. Together, they offer another (sad) reminder of the musical connection that this group of players had.

Alone, its historical significance as the last performance during the Fillmore West’s closing on July 4, 1971, as well as of this line up of Santana, would make it a nice addition to pad out the Legacy Edition. But, it’s truly an amazing set that’s a valuable treasure. More than half of the set’s 11 songs come from III with a nod to a past hit (“Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen”) and Miles Davis (“In A Silent Way”). And just like any jamband worth its weight equal to miles traveled on the road, Santana brings the songs to a high level of energy, intensity and musical dexterity on the Fillmore stage. As Bill Graham said in his introduction, “What better way than to close with the sounds from the streets, Santana.” The band lived up to the task.

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