Perhaps it’s far too easy for the younger generation to underestimate the enormous influence that Santana had on the direction of progressive music in the early 70s and that’s a shame. Maybe their well-deserved inclusion on this site will go a long way towards rectifying that situation. After establishing themselves as bonafied “Top 40” chart-toppers with their first three studio albums the group was expected to continue that trend with more of the same radio-friendly ditties.Instead, they shocked the listening public with an album that introduced the masses to the new and blossoming world of jazz rock fusion that was jetting across the planet just under the radar of popular acceptance. “Caravanserai” was a real trip for the average Joe and not all of their fans were exactly thrilled trying to dance to odd time signatures but for many it opened a door to music that they didn’t know existed from bands like Return to Forever, Weather Report and The Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This album really doesn’t sound like any of those groups exactly. It went platinum because it’s still got that infectious, exciting Santana sound and groove that is undeniably addicting. But this one takes the listener on a fantastic journey I dare say is quite unlike any taken elsewhere. It stands alone in their vast catalogue of excellent musical offerings and I consider it their apex.
Along with Carlos’ stunning, emotionally inspired guitar playing, Michael Shrieve’s incredible drumming and the tandem of James Mingo Lewis & Jose Chepito Areas’ exemplary percussion are without peer in the timeframe this was released in. Even the gruff-voiced Greg Rolie (whom I always thought of as a weak link) surpasses all expectations and performs far beyond his perceived abilities. I’ll forego my usual song by song review and tell all of you that read this to simply experience the project as a whole. There’s not a low point to be found and the highs are numerous and unforgettable. They created a work of art that is accessible and understandable to even the most casual progressive mind while weaving a tapestry of tones and rhythms that is indescribable. It simply must be heard to believe.
I encourage all who love great progressive music to experience it. You will not be disappointed. A very solid 5 stars.
Chicapah (Rollie Anderson) PROG REVIEWER