Leon Patillo - lead vocals, keyboards; Carlos Santana - guitar, percussion, vocals; David Brown - bass; Tom Coster - keyboards, vocals; Leon "Ndugu" Chancler - drums; Armando Peraza - congas, percussion, vocals
Following the initial success of Santana's first three albums, Carlos Santana would begin pursuing projects both inside and outside the context of his band. The band would experience frequent personnel changes over the next several years with the contemporary music of Miles Davis and the various alumni of his late 1960s/early 1970s groups having a profound effect on Santana's direction in the years to come. The melodic fluency of Santana's guitar solos and his signature biting, sustained tone remained central to the band's sound, but with new musicians on board, jazzy new elements would be infused into the Latin rock that initially established the band's reputation. Carlos' projects outside the band, including an album and tour where he teamed up with Mahavishnu Orchestra members John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham, along with his spiritual awakening to the teachings of Sri Chimnoy, would soon alienate fans who preferred the early hits, but Santana would gain legions of new fans from the bourgeoning jazz-rock fusion movement in the process.
This 1975 King Biscuit Flower Hour recording can be heard as a musical bridge between the old and new, showcasing one of Santana's fusion-oriented lineups applying their formidable talents to much of the classic early Santana repertoire. The clear spiritual voice of Leon Patillo, who became the lead vocalist during this era, and the outstanding musicianship of the newest recruits, Tom Coster, Leon "Ndugu" Chancler and Armando Peraza, would allow Santana to straddle the lines between rock, Latin music, jazz fusion, and spiritually driven communiqués. The studio recordings of this era, like 1974's Borboletta, would prove to be the least commercially successful of any Santana albums, but as this performance clearly proves, the band was becoming increasingly powerful on stage. This performance even rivals the music captured on Lotus, recorded two years prior and considered by many to be the greatest live recording of the group during the 1970s, and it better conveys John McLaughlin's strong influence on Santana's guitar technique, which by 1975 had become significantly more complex and fluent.
The recording begins with Santana's inspired pairing of Peter Green's "Black Magic Woman" with Gabor Szabo's "Gypsy Queen." More developed than the album version, this medley is just as tight and definitive as the classic Abraxas take. Unlike the studio recording, here the group segues directly into "Oye Coma Va," the Tito Puente cover that, along with "Evil Ways," sent their debut album to the top of the charts. Jazz keyboardist Tom Coster and percussionist Armando Peraza had debuted with the group on the group's 1972 album, Caravanserai, and prove themselves equally compelling on the older material. This opening medley is quite exciting and full of fiery playing from all concerned.
A lovely improvisation on the debut Santana album's "Treat" serves as a prelude into the first new number featured here, "Time Waits For No One." A writing collaboration between Santana and Patillo (not to be confused with the Rolling Stones song with the same title), "Time Waits For No One" features Patillo's ruminations on the temporary nature of all things and includes outstanding solos from both Coster and Santana. Things take a funkier turn on the first of two Borboletta tracks featured next, "Give And Take," followed by Patillo's uplifting "Mirage," a song with more melodic pop leanings that was not included in the KBFH radio broadcast.
The remainder of the program again focuses on this lineup applying their formidable skills to vintage material from the first two Santana albums, beginning with a breathtaking version of "Incident At Neshabur" that clocks in at twice the length of the album version, allowing the group to flex their improvisational muscles. This segues into the percussion-heavy "Savor," another first album track which serves as a warm-up exercise for Chancler and Perazza, who take full flight on "Soul Sacrifice," another highlight of Santana's debut album and the composition that initially gained the band the most street credibility through it's appearance in the Woodstock movie. Clocking in at 16 minutes and fueled by the improvisational fervor of Perazza and Chancler, this is a tour-de-force. Carlos is in inspired form right from the start, peeling off searing solos which lead into the lengthy drums and percussion sequence, which then evolves into a characteristically hot, highly energetic jam. More ferocious guitar work, an inspired keyboard solo from Coster and an astounding bongo solo from Perazza build toward an explosive ending. Despite containing lengthy improvisations and solos, the nearly half-hour sequence that begins with "Incident" and concludes with "Sacrifice" is a thoroughly sizzling performance and a convincing example of this lineup's formidable powers.