Carlos Santana - guitar, vocals; Neal Schon - guitar, vocals; Gregg Rolie - keyboards, piano, lead vocals; David Brown - bass, vocals; Michael Shrieve - drums; José Chepitó Areas - percussion, conga, timbales; Mike Carabello - percussion, conga, tambourine, vocals; Thomas "Coke" Escovedo - percussion
Performing at Bill Graham's legendary Fillmore East midway through the sessions for the band's third album, this Santana performance captures the classic Abraxas lineup at a most inspired moment in time. The teenage guitar prodigy Neal Schon, had joined the band six months earlier after turning down an offer to join Eric Clapton's band, Derek & The Dominos. His addition gave Santana a powerful dual lead guitar attack and injected the band with even more energy. This was a remarkable and all too brief era in the group's history, when the original lineup was not only at its creative apex, but also at a commercial peak, riding high on both the album and singles charts. Following the monumental success of their second album, Abraxas, this excellent quality recording captures Santana as they were just beginning to splinter into two distinctive musical directions. On one hand, Greg Rolie, along with several other band members, were emphasizing the hard rocking Latin flavored sound that established the band initially, while Carlos was beginning to grow beyond rock music and was becoming more interested in the spontaneous improvisational elements in the music of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Despite growing in two directions simultaneously, the group was incredibly tight on stage and more often than not, delivering incendiary performances. Over the course of the previous two years Santana had gone from virtually unknown outside of San Francisco to one of the most popular and commercially successful bands on the planet.
Performing choice material from their first two albums as well as introducing new material then currently being recorded for their third album, this set will be a delight to long-term fans and new listeners alike. The group wastes no time getting down to business, opening their set with their Woodstock showstopper, "Soul Sacrifice." Featuring a new prelude section before launching into the familiar opening riff, this is a powerful opener. Despite being the first song of the set, this features a massive barrage of drum and percussion soloing and now features the blistering twin lead guitars of Santana and Schon together. The first new song of the set follows, with a cover of Chicago jazz musician Eugene Ammons' "Jungle Strut." Destined for the third album, this features Santana and Schon's sizzling dual lead guitar attack, sometimes played in perfect unison, not unlike the approach of the Allman Brother's guitarists Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, who were just hitting their prime at this time. The beautiful stereo mix, with each guitarist hard panned into separate channels, allows listeners to hear the extraordinary interplay between these two guitarists. Although Schon often takes on a rhythmic role hear, his contributions clearly inspire some of Carlos' most incendiary lead work.
The group's inspired pairing of Peter Green's "Black Magic Woman" with Gabor Szabo's "Gypsy Queen" is next. More developed than the album version, these are just as tight and definitive as the classic Abraxas take. The group then segues directly into Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va." The group composition "Waiting" is next, slowly building on the repeating bass line anchor of David Brown until it reaches an explosive climax. One of the most beautiful compositions of Carlos' entire career follows with the ethereal Abraxas album track; "Samba Pa Ti," which brings an introspective and contemplative feel to the middle of the set.
From here on out, the high-energy momentum returns for the remainder of the set, with the band primarily performing fresh new material, other than a quick romp through Clarence Henry's "Evil Ways." The final four-song sequence begins with a fiery take on the new instrumental "Toussaint L'Overture." Another group composition, this has the entire group sinking their teeth into the performance, which burns from beginning to end, at which point they drop directly into "Evil Ways." This version of "Evil Ways" is interesting for its brevity and looseness. The band jams instrumentally for nearly two and half minutes before the vocal even begins. When it does, Greg Rolie skips the first verse entirely, quickly moving on to the last verse, after which Carlos takes off into a sizzling solo before they bring it to a close. To conclude the set, the group provides Neal Schon a shining moment by introducing the audience to his new number, "Everybody's Everything." Destined to become the catchy hit single off their third album the following year, here it is in more improvisational and serves as a motivational number geared toward audience participation. With Carlos taking a more rhythmic role, this infectious and celebratory number serves as a perfect conclusion to the set and not surprisingly features Schon's most incendiary solo of the evening, leaving the Fillmore East audience howling for more.
When Santana return to the stage for their encore, they deliver another new number in the form of "Gumbo," a pulverizing new fusion piece. Based on a simple repeating riff, this has the entire band sizzling as Santana, Schon and Rolie develop a three-way call and response. This group finale blasts the Fillmore East audience with five furious minutes of fireworks.
-Written by Alan Bershaw