- Santana’s fifth studio album finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- The sound is big and rich, yet still wonderfully clean, clear and open with fantastic energy – you will not believe all the space and ambience here
- An ambitious follow-up to Caravanserai, Welcome continued Carlos Santana’s foray into Jazz-Rock Fusion with music that remains powerful and intriguing even today
- “Welcome was merely ahead of its time as a musical journey and is one of the more enduring recordings the band ever made. This is a record that pushes the envelope even today and is one of the most inspired recordings in the voluminous Santana oeuvre.”
First off, a 360 label doesn’t mean much on this record except the POTENTIAL for good sound. The badly mastered or pressed copies can be recognized easily: they are muddy and smeary. The recording itself has a bit of that too-many-tubes-in-the-signal-path quality to start with, so unless the record is mastered and pressed clearly and cleanly the whole presentation is likely to turn to mud.
Santana’s first album came out of nowhere and rocked in a way that few had heard before. In that sense it has something in common with Led Zeppelin’s debut. That album took the blues and added heavy guitars. Santana took African and Latin rhythms and added his own heavy guitar sound. Each is a landmark recording in its own right.
Like Abraxas, when you play a Hot Stamper copy Santana’s first album very loud, soon enough you find yourself marvelling at the musicianship of the group — because the best Hot Stamper pressings, communicating every bit of the energy and clarity the recording has to offer, let you hear what a great band they were.
On badly mastered records, such as the run-of-the-mill domestic LP, or the audiophile pressings on MoFi and CBS, the music lacks the power of the real thing. I want to hear Santana ROCK. Most pressings don’t let me do that. Only the best do. (more…)
On side two the final guitar solo Santana takes on Well All Right gets LOUDER in the mix than any guitar solo on any rock record with which I am familiar. The sound gets louder after the first chorus, then louder still right before the second solo, and then the solo itself gets even louder until it seems to be as loud as live music. (Operative word: seems.)
Some copies get loud and some do not. Some stereos are dynamic and some are not. If you have the right stereo, set at the right volume, and THIS copy, you will hear something that not one out of one hundred audiophiles (or music lovers) have ever heard on a record — LIVE ROCK SOUND. (more…)
Sonic Grade: F
The remastered Abraxas never got past the first elimination round; it had to have been one of the worst half-speeds I have ever heard. Dead dead dead as a doornail.
Santana’s first album on MoFi is a record we admit to having liked a bit when it first came out. Since then we have changed our minds. It’s just too damn compressed and lifeless. The Whomp Factor on this pressing is Zero. Since whomp is critical to the sound of Santana’s music, it’s Game Over for us. The review below is exactly what we wrote at the time the record came in. We tried to like it, but it’s clear to us now that we tried to like it too hard. Please accept our apologies.
I noted in my old blog: “But now I would have to say that the MoFi LP is far too lifeless to be acceptable to anyone, even those with the worst kinds of audiophile BS systems.”
We also mentioned a while back (4/29/08) on our blog how bad the latest crop of MoFi vinyl was, with the heading: “Mobile Fidelity, Ouch.
On another note, we played some godawful sounding MOFI pressings over the last few weeks: Linda Ronstadt (which appears to be out of phase, more on that down the road); Metallica (with blobby bass at 45 RPM no less; only half-speed mastering can guarantee muddy bass under any and all circumstances!); and Rush (nothing even resembling a top end. How do these things happen?).
These three albums have to be some of the worst sounding vinyl I have ever heard in my life. I won’t waste any more of your time or mine talking about them. Buy them if you feel the need, and if you like what you hear, drop us a line. Maybe the copy we cracked open was a “bad” one, unrepresentative of the general pressing run in the same way that the latest Crisis half-speed was.
Well, maybe so, but we are going to have to leave that conundrum unsolved for the time being. To crack open more copies to see if they are all as bad as the first one we played is not something we are particularly inclined to do. We call that throwing good money after bad around here at Better Records.
This is a label making some seriously bad records these days. (more…)
There are some 180 gram reissues from Germany that are just plain awful. They can’t begin to hold a candle to good American copies.
The Original Orange Label CBS pressings always have that veiled, opaque, smeary quality that we dislike so much. They are obviously made from sub-generation tapes. The transients suffer badly when these dub tapes are used.
These are just some of the recordings by Santana that we’ve auditioned recently and found wanting. Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame.
A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.
Sonic Grade: F
A Hall of Shame Pressing
There is a 180 gram domestic pressing of Abraxas that’s currently available. The reason we never sold it is that it’s AWFUL. One side, I don’t remember which one, is actually Mono! You will see people selling this record on Ebay as an audiophile pressing. Believe me, no audiophile in his right mind would want this record. Just a word to the wise, a service of Better Records.
This is one of the MoFi LPs we’ve reviewed on the site. This MoFi link will take you to reviews of more than 90 more.
We also have a Hall of Shame for bad sounding records such as these. It currently has 250 members but could easily have double that if someone wanted to take the time to make entries for all the bad audiophile pressings we’ve played over the years. (That person would have to be me and I don’t want to do it.)
Santana is a record we admit to having liked a bit when it first came out. Since then we have changed our minds. As embarrassing as it may be, clearly We Was Wrong.
It’s just too damn compressed and lifeless. The Whomp Factor on this pressing is Zero. Since whomp is critical to the sound of Santana’s music, it’s Game Over for us. The review below is exactly what we wrote at the time the record came in. We tried to like it, but it’s clear to us now that we tried to like it too hard. Please accept our apologies.
Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.
Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you TURN UP YOUR VOLUME.
This album needs to be played LOUD. I used to demonstrate that specific effect a few years ago when I found my first shockingly good Hot Stamper copy back in the late ’90s. I would play the first minute or so of track one at a pretty good level. There’s lots of ambience, there’s a couple of guys who shout things out, there’s a substantial amount of deep bass, and the whole recording has a natural smooth quality to it (which is precisely what allows you to play it at loud volumes).
Then I would turn it up a notch, say about 2-3 DB. I would announce to my friends that this is probably louder than you will ever play this record, but listen to what happens when you do. The soundstage gets wider and deeper, all those guys that shout can be heard more clearly, you start to really feel that deep bass, and when the song gets going, it REALLY gets going.
The energy would be fantastic.
Just one of the distinguished members of our Rock and Pop Hall of Fame that we’ve added recently (now 200+ strong!).
It’s also another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.
It’s 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.) (more…)