Santana – Santana – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

Huge ENERGY, incredible DYNAMICS and amazing IMMEDIACY are what we found on this side two, and those three qualities are what made it the Side Two Winner of our shootout!

We just finished a big Santana shootout and this side two had us going like no other. It’s got that HUGE Santana sound that always gets us rocking along to the beat. The soundfield is big, wide, and open with a three-dimensional quality that lets you hear right INTO the music. The strong bottom end sets the perfect foundation for the mids and highs to really open up and do their thing. I can hear clearly that You Just Don’t Care on side two is recorded LIVE in the studio.

At the levels we were at it sure sounded live!

It’s exceptionally difficult to find great sounding copies of this album that aren’t trashed, but when you hear a copy like this one you’ll understand why we went through all the trouble! This White Hot copy of Santana’s debut has all the tubey magic you could hope for. The sound of the percussion, absolutely critical to this music, is Right On The Money — just listen, you can really hear the sound of the skins!

Side two has STUNNING MASTER TAPE SOUND. The best sounding tracks are DEMO DISC QUALITY! If you’ve been stuck playing the average copy of this record, you’ll have a hard time believing this is the same album. This copy’s got virtually none of the smeary, blurry quality that’s absolutely EPIDEMIC to these early pressings. The sound is shockingly clean and clear, yet full of tubey richness and smoothness. It’s also super transparent, allowing you to really hear INTO the soundfield. The guitar, organ, percussion, and voices all sound incredible. As I said above, this was one tough shootout, but a copy like this makes up for all the trouble. We rarely hear a side two even close to this good — A+++ all the way!

Side one is really energetic and lively, coming to life in a way few other side ones ever do. It’s very transparent — you can really hear the sound of the room around all the voices. The bass is a bit sloppy — so very typical for this album — but there’s not nearly as much smearing here as you’ll hear on most copies out there. Jingo works particularly well on this copy — the bass definition is not a problem at all, so turn it up good and loud and let that crazy bottom end move you! We rate side one an A+ — it’s better than most, but not quite the best.

The Typical Copy Is A Nightmare

It’s been our experience that finding clean copies with the right stampers of this album is practically impossible. A number of factors making finding good sounding pressings of this record extremely difficult.

First off, the majority of original pressings simply don’t sound good. A 360 label does not mean anything on this record except the POTENTIAL for good sound. The badly mastered copies can be recognized easily: they are muddy and smeared sounding. This recording has a bit of that smeary quality to start with, so unless the record is mastered right, the whole thing turns to blurry mud.

And of course, the most serious for all serious collectors of vintage recordings is CONDITION. It’s very unusual to find an early copy of this record that isn’t beat to death. I bought mine when I was in high school and I can assure you I beat mine to death. I remember playing this record over and over again until the grooves were worn smooth. This album came out of nowhere and really ROCKED in a way that no one had ever heard before. In that sense it reminds me of Led Zeppelin I. That album took the blues and added heavy metal guitars. Santana took African and Latin rhythms and added his own heavy metal guitar sound. Each of them is a landmark recording in its own right.

Most of the original pressings I’ve bought of this album weren’t good enough to sell. Most of them sounded terrible, and the ones that didn’t sound terrible were too trashed to ask any money for.

A Quiet Original? Are you joking?

We had an extremely difficult time finding any 360 Label copies that played much better than Mint Minus Minus. There’s a few quiet passages on this album that quickly reveal what old Columbia vinyl sounds like some forty years down the line.

AMG Review

Carlos Santana was originally in his own wing of the Latin Rock Hall of Fame, neither playing Afro-Cuban with rock guitar, as did Malo, nor flavoring mainstream rock with percussion, as did Chicago. His first record, as with the best fusion, created something a little different than just a mixture — a new style that, surprisingly, remains all his own. Granted that Latin music has seeped into the mainstream since, but why aren’t Van Halen and Metallica listening to this? Where they simmer, Santana boils over.