Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Santana gets Smashed

Here is the utterly hilarious review of Santana's debut album, written by Langdon Winner and John Morthland and published in Rolling Stone on Oct 16, 1969: I've bolded my favorite sections.

"Maybe it's just a coincidence that Santana and speed become popular at about the same time. Maybe not. At any rate their "long awaited" album is definitely a speed freak's delight - fast, pounding, frantic music with no real content. For those who hoped that the second generation of San Francisco bands would be an improvement over the first, this record along with those of the Sons of Champlin and It's A Beautiful Day should destroy such fantasies forever. In the post-psychedelic area all of the bands have their styles down pat. But like methedrine which gives a high with no meaning, the dazzling rock styles now offer us music with virtually no substance.
Santana is largely an exercise in rhythm. Lots of drums and drumming. Santana apparently noticed that rock audiences inevitably go beserk at the slightest sign of a drum solo. Why not triple their pleasure? Give them drums plus congas plus timbales! The fact that all of them are terrible will never be noticed. The incompetence of each will cancel out the incompetence of the others.
On
top of this is the work of the guitar and organ. Carlos Santana has stumbled upon a tired and mechanical guitar lick which he likes so well that he plays it in virtually every song. It's even possible that it was recorded only once and then overdubbed wherever the engineers thought it would fit. You'll know it when you hear it. Greg Rolie contributes his share of redundancy with some organ solos which sound like Earl Grant rejects. His tone reminds one of nothing so much as the noise made by that guy in junior high who used to scratch the blackboard with his fingernails.
The vocals on such songs as "Evil Ways" do little justice even to these paltry lyrics. Columbia, incidentally, slipped up on this one and did not include a libretto. Here it is. Go-Ba-Ba Go-Ba-Ba Go-Ba-Ba, Lump Thumpa, Boom Boom, Bang Bang, Thump Thump.
And the engineering! Along with the loudness of the drumming it almost makes you forget how bad the music is. Super slick. The instrumentals like "Waiting" and "Soul Sacrifice" are all well balanced and mixed. But that's the story of this whole effort. It is a masterpiece of hollow techniques.
On the day this record was released newscasters gave considerable coverage to a big fire that filled the sky with billowing clouds of smoke and brilliant flames. It took crews of firemen eight hours to control it, but there was little damage. All that, yet the fire had done almost nothing. The parallel between it and this album is obvious.
One can't help wondering how many takes Santana required on each song before it was "perfect," how long they spent mixing it until everything was just right, and yet how little they accomplished. It will pay off. The album will sell very well. People who buy it will play it night and day for a week, then most will file it away under "S" and forget about it. If they saw through it, though, they'd skip the first three steps and just forget about it altogether."


Now i don't altogether agree. It's a decent album and their drummer is pretty great. And "Soul Sacrifice" sounded pretty good at Woodstock:




still though...hilarious writing from the era where rock criticism meant something..

-Oliver

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