Abraxas

Abraxas

Santana (1970)

The cultural hegemony (or, if you’re optimistic, mutually beneficial synergy) of Anglo-Saxon, developed-country music with other cultural formats proved to be a huge boon for rock and roll. The ability to easily fuse with other styles of music from around the globe led to all sorts of creative breakthroughs. This was especially exciting since most of these combinations came from humble, unlikely places.

Later in the decade, Afrobeat and reggae would be appropriated for the masses. But 1970 unveiled the scorching guitar chops of Carlos Santana and his eponymous band of Latin American percussionists and organists. They played a nice fusion of traditional Mexican styles and soul-influenced pop songs, and even got a chance to play at Woodstock. This LP is their breakthrough; featuring a decent amount of radio hits, it propelled the band onto the national stage. It features the emotional directness and fluid speed of Carlos’ playing, while covering a range of moods. There was a distinct hint of psychedelia’s aftermath, as well as some nearly operatic instrumental pieces. All of them share a combination of excited urgency and sensual spirit. Abraxas is a lightweight, fun showcase for a new style of music.

Key track: “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen”

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