Santana

The Woodstock Experience

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Sony BMG's Legacy imprint decided to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock by issuing a slew of double-disc deluxe packages by catalog artists who played the festival. Each slipcase contains the featured artist's entire performance at Woodstock and, as a bonus, an LP sleeve reproduction of a classic album issued near the time the festival occurred, as well as fine, individually designed 16" by 24" double-sided posters. Admittedly, in the 21st century, it is difficult to hear Santana's performance at the 1969 Woodstock festival and separate it from the history of the band and of its namesake, Carlos Santana, and experience the sense of wonder and perhaps awe the audience felt -- but not for the usual reasons. Unlike virtually every other artist in this series, Santana were the only act that didn't have a record out on Columbia, RCA, or one of its subsidiaries. The band's debut (which is included in the package) would be issued shortly thereafter. Indeed, the only reason they were on the bill at all was because of promoter Bill Graham's shrewd business sense. He managed them and they were one of the house bands at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. Therefore, the vast majority of the crowd was encountering them at Woodstock for the first time. This volume captures that performance in its entirety. Also unlike the other volumes in this series, this disc contains only one previously unissued track -- ironically, it's "Evil Ways." The band performs the majority of its debut LP in almost the same order, leaving out "Shades of Time" and "Treat." Replacing them is another jam, "Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries," which was performed after the shattering and now ubiquitous "Soul Sacrifice" that appeared on the original Woodstock album. The latter tune was long thought to be the band's conclusion of its festival performance, and while not nearly as long as "Soul Sacrifice," "Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries" does match it in terms of its jam intensity. The meld of Latin, hard rock, and blues still holds up despite some of Santana's understandable self-consciousness in the early part of the set. What the listener can grasp now that this performance has been assembled properly here is the sound of a band coming into an awareness of its musical power in front of an initially indifferent audience. It happens during "Savor," when Carlos says either to the band or the audience (it's not clear), "Back to the Latin." The rhythm sections kicks it off and Gregg Rolie offers one of the most killer organ solos of his career. From there on out the realization is experienced and the band just walks to the edge of the cliff. This is all killer, no filler.

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