19 January 2011

The Original Santana Band: "Incident At Neshabur"

For those of us who became fanatics at the beginning, that original line-up, for a while, meant something special. They were hot off a mesmerizing performance at Woodstock. And as fate would have it I had just gotten my first record player. Santana's single Evil Ways was my first favorite song.

Touring on their first self-titled album, still riding high on the Woodstock film excitement about their performance, Santana was also the first concert I ever saw. The show was to me indescribably great. It was the night as a teenager I had my rock 'n' roll revelation. I was hooked and this music -- Afro-Cuban, latin, rock, jazz, San Francisco street music, with a full Latin rhythm section -- was the drug.

Then, in the fall of 1970, Santana released their quite astounding second album, Abraxas. Great as that album was -- some songs such as Black Magic Woman and Oye Come Va are still out there in the mix today -- the first musical fissures that would soon split the band were beginning to show. On Abraxas we begin to see guitarist Carlos Santana head in his musical direction (Latin-infused jazz) and keyboard player/vocalist Gregg Rolie in his (hard rock --that is, what was considered hard rock in the early 70s.)

Those fissures, apparent in tracks such as Incident At Neshabur featuring song co-writer and pianist Alberto Gianquinto, are some of the best music the original line-up created. As Rolie noted about this track (in an interview for the 1998 reissue liner notes), "We did time changes, colors, and things that were very sophisticated."

The best recorded performance of Incident At Neshabur was live in Japan in 1973, with long searing guitar solos tempered by jazz keyboards, on Lotus (1974). This version comes in at almost 16 minutes. The studio version below is much shorter, but more importantly, Rolie is still in the line-up, adding a rock sensibility that's an essential part of the mix.

The Original Santana Band will always be special -- no matter what Carlos achieved in his jazz fusion period. That original band had a distinctive magic. See what you think -- check out the track below.

The Original Santana Band: Incident At Neshabur (Abraxas version)

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