Santana – Santana (III)

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  • Santana III finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • This copy has tons of energy, nice weight to the bottom, and plenty of extension up top
  • 4 1/2 stars: “. . . an album that has aged extremely well due to its spare production (by Carlos and the band) and its live sound. This is essential Santana, a record that deserves to be reconsidered in light of its lasting abundance and vision.”

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

If you want to bring the funky sound of Latin percussion to life in your living room, this is the ticket. This is one of the most TUBEY MAGICAL Santana recording we have ever heard, and at its best it is competitive with Abraxas for the title of Greatest Santana Recording.

Both sides here absolutely DESTROY the typical pressing, with the kind of huge, wide soundfield and stunning clarity and detail that really bring this music to life!

This pressing is open and spacious, which gives all of the drums and guitars their own space. Santana records live and die by the sonic quality of the drums and percussion, and on this copy they are KILLER.

Check out the commentary below under “The Best Sounding Santana Album?” to read more about just how great this record sounds.

What the Best Sides of Santana (III) Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

The Best Sounding Santana Album?

Even more amazing and surprising was the amount of TUBEY MAGIC found on the best copies. I may be going out on a limb, but to me this recording has more of that quality than any other Santana record ever made. Tubey Magic in this case means you not only get all the richness, sweetness and three-dimensionality that the term implies, but also amazing TRANSPARENCY. There’s no smear to the sound, no veil to peer through — you just hear into that huge, deep soundfield of the studio with nothing between you and the musicians.

They’re all right there in the studio together; there’s no question this record is practically a live recording. It has the feel and energy of a recording where everyone is in the room at the same time, much like the first Santana record. That gives the sound AND the music a very special quality that’s hard to create any other way.

What We’re Listening For on Santana (III)

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

A True Demo Disc

This is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock records. It’s also one of those recordings that demands to be played LOUD. If you’ve got the the big room, big speakers, and plenty of power to drive them, you can have a LIVE ROCK AND ROLL CONCERT in your very own house. When Santana lets loose with some of those legendary monster power chords — which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and “safe” mixes — I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don’t like the sound of horns, so there you go.)

C’mon, You Say That About All Your Favorite Records

I know you’ve heard me say this before, but I need to make something clear about this music. It doesn’t even make sense at moderate listening levels. Normal listening levels suck all the life right out of it. You can tell by the way it was recorded; this music is designed to be played back at LOUD levels, and anything less does a disservice to the musicians, not to mention yourself!

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Batuka 
No One To Depend On
Taboo
Toussaint l’Overture

Side Two

Everybody’s Everything
Guajira
Jungle Strut
Everything’s Coming Our Way
Para Los Rumberos

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

Santana III is an album that undeservingly stands in the shadows behind the towering legend that is the band’s second album, Abraxas. This was also the album that brought guitarist Neal Schon — who was 17 years old — into the original core lineup of Santana. Percussionist Thomas “Coke” Escovedo was brought in to replace (temporarily) José Chepitó Areas, who had suffered a brain aneurysm, yet who recovered quickly and rejoined the band. The rest were Carlos, organist Gregg Rolie, drummer Michael Schrieve, bassist David Brown, and conguero Michael Carabello.

“Batuka” is the powerful first evidence of something being very different. The band was rawer, darker, and more powerful with twin leads and Schon’s harder, edgier rock & roll sound paired with Carlos’ blend of ecstatic high notes and soulful fills. It cooks — funky, mean, and tough. “Batuka” immediately transforms itself into “No One to Depend On,” by Escovedo, Carabello, and Rolie. The middle section is highlighted by frantic handclaps, call-and-response lines between Schon and Rolie, and Carlos joining the fray until the entire track explodes into a frenzied finale. And what’s most remarkable is that the set just keeps on cooking, from the subtle slow burn of “Taboo” to the percussive jam workout that is “Toussaint l’Overture,” a live staple in the band’s set list recorded here for the first time (and featuring some cooking Rolie organ work at its beginning). “Everybody’s Everything” is here, as is “Guajira” and “Jungle Strut” — tunes that are still part of Santana’s live show. With acoustic guitars, gorgeous hand percussion, and Santana’s fragile lead vocal, “Everything’s Coming Our Way” is the only “feel good” track here, but it’s a fitting way to begin winding the album down with its Schon and Santana guitar breaks. The album ends with a completely transformed reading of Tito Puente’s “Para los Rumberos,” complete with horns and frantic, almost insanely fast hand drumming and cowbell playing.

It’s an album that has aged extremely well due to its spare production (by Carlos and the band) and its live sound. This is essential Santana, a record that deserves to be reconsidered in light of its lasting abundance and vision.