Abraxas: Rolling Stone's #207 of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time

Santana Abraxas Album cover
Studio album: Santana
Album cover: Painting by Mati Klarwein
Released: September 23, 1970
Genre: Rock, rock/jazz, rock/blues,
Latin rock, Chicano, fusion, psychedelic    

Abraxas was Santana's first LP to reach number one in the United States. The title derives from Greek, “...a word of mystic meaning in the system of the Gnostic Basilides."  Deemed "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" by the Library of CongressAbraxas was selected for preservation in their National Recording Registry in 2016. 

The album ranks number 207 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2012 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2015, it was listed among Billboard's 50 Essential Latin Albums of the 50 Past Years. It's included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. 

"I was praying to God to 
keep me in time and in tune." 
Carlos Santana on Woodstock

Santana, formed in the Latin District of San Francisco, was named after group leader Carlos Santana. They hadn't released an album before they played the 1969 Woodstock festival. Their manager, Bill Graham, got them on the bill. Their set was earlier than planned and caught Carlos tripping on mescaline. "I was praying to God to keep me in time and in tune," he's said about playing high. Their performance was career making, thrusting them to stardom.  

Mati Klarwein

After their success at Woodstock, Santana was signed to a three record deal. Abraxas was their second LP under that contract. The artwork for the album was one of the first paintings Mati Klarwein did after relocating to New York City.  Carlos Santana saw it in a magazine under the title "Annunciation" and requested it for the cover of the band's upcoming album. The record sleeve just credits 'MATI.' Klarwein went on to design album artwork for Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Gregg Allman.

"Annunciation" by Mati Klarwein
"Annunciation" by Mati Klarwein

Samba Pa Ti

"Samba pa ti" means "Samba for you." Santana wrote this song after seeing a jazz saxophonist's street performance outside his apartment in New York City on a Sunday afternoon. In an interview with Mojo in 2008, he said:

"I opened the window I saw this man in the street, he was drunk and he had a saxophone and a bottle of booze in his back pocket. And I kept looking at him because he kept struggling with himself. He couldn’t make up his mind which one to put in his mouth first, the saxophone or the bottle and I immediately heard a song. I wrote the whole thing right there"

No one thought the tune single material when Abraxas was released, but it became Santana's first entry - peaking at number 27 - on the UK singles chart.

Oye Como Va
"Listen to my rhythm, 
good for fun, mulata!!"
Translation "Oye como va"
"Oye Como Va" was released as the second single from Abraxas. Salsa legend Tito Puente wrote this song and recorded it in the early '50s. While Puente was very popular in the Latin community, Santana's cover became a hit and helped introduce Puente to a wider audience. On Santana's version of the song, everything, including the guitar wails and keyboards, follows the original music.

Tito Puente
Tito Puente

The voice in the beginning says "sabor," which is Spanish for "flavor." Gregg Rolie, a founding member and keyboard player for Santana, was the lead vocalist on this song. He joined Journey in 1973. The lyric, entirely in Spanish, is four repetitions of the stanza:
Oye como va
Mi ritmo
Bueno pa gozar
A "mulata" is a woman of Caucasian European and Black African descent. The translation is: 
"Listen to my rhythm, good for fun, mulata!!"

Black Magic Woman
"Fleetwood Mac used to knock me out.
They were the best blues band."
Carlos Sanatana
The first single released from their Abraxas LP was "Black Magic Woman." It's a cover of a 1968 Fleetwood Mac song that hit number 37 on the music chart in the United Kingdom. Peter Green, a founding member of Fleetwood Mac, wrote the lyrics. 

"Black Magic Woman" single cover by Fleetwood Mac

Both groups started out as blues bands. Santana was originally known as the Santana Blues Band.  "I used to go to see the original Fleetwood Mac, and they used to kill me, just knock me out," Carlos Santana said in the book The Guitar Greats. "To me, they were the best blues band."


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