Santana's record catalog was orderly from its debut album in 1969 to the band's departure from Columbia Records at the start of the 1990s. Then gray market, or at least, unauthorized minor-label unearthings of stray material began to come out of the woodwork, their numbers swelling with the rise of the CD era and, at the end of the 1990s, with the group's popular resurgence such that, by the start of the new millennium, there was a glut of albums of uncertain origin in the discography. Here's a good example. Mystical Spirits Parts 1 & 2 is a double-CD of recordings that seem to derive from Santana's early days on the San Francisco ballroom circuit, i.e., 1966-68. (Liner notes writer Skip Heller says that they come from "a couple of years" prior to the group's signing to Columbia Records, which took place in 1968.) Carlos Santana has said that, during this period, Santana's set consisted largely of jams rather than songs, and that tendency is confirmed on these recordings, many of which are lengthy instrumentals, though there are versions of early Santana favorites "Persuasion" and "Evil Ways." Some of the jams don't sound much like Santana, lacking the familiar Latin percussion and even Carlos Santana's signature guitar sound. Often, they sound like much of the acid rock that was popular in San Francisco at the time. In fact, it would not be surprising to discover that some of this material isn't really Santana at all. The 15-and-a-half-minute "Funky Piano," for example, seems to have a couple of guitarists, one of whom sounds like Jefferson Airplane's Jorma Kaukonen, and the 14-minute "Just Ain't Good Enough" sounds more like Quicksilver Messenger Service than Santana. The last two tracks on each of the two CDs are remixes. At the end of Disc one the track listed as "Persuasion" is not "Persuasion" at all, but some other song, while "Hot Tamales," which follows, does feature a loop of Santana vocalist Gregg Rolie singing, "You've got persuasion!" Overall, then, Mystical Spirits has the uneven, buyer-beware characteristics of a bootleg, even if it is technically a legal release.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2