Which great sage was it who said that life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans? it was probably me actually; it is the sort of nugget of wisdom that I just cannot help churning out in almost every sentence I write. I haven’t posted in over a week – dreadful, but that’s what trucking around the country taking my eldest to university open days, family commitments and that ‘work’ thing I apparently have to do every so often, leads to.
But that’s not what you’re here for of course, you’re here for the hip to the max, up to the minute LP reviews and all that zeitgeisty shite that I drip feed to you mortals. So without further ado here’s a brand-new one, from sort of 48 years ago, Santana Woodstock Saturday August 16, 1969. Yet another RSD 2017 release that I have picked up for very little money after the event. It has rapidly become one of my very favourite releases of 2017 too. I just wish I knew exactly when it was recorded, damn those record fellows with their cryptic LP titles.
When I was about 14-ish my parents recorded Woodstock: The Movie and I must have watched it in all its split screen glory about 30 times that year. I was a bit of an odd kid. It was a way to understand their generation and I, together with quite a few of my friends wanted in. Then and now I loved the naiveté of it all, something that then and now, is a dead butterfly of an idea – cynical MF I may be, but the idea that you could change the world with love* appeals/appealed. But amongst all the fabulous hippy jive talk, the awesome stage announcements and the tension releasing nudity there was some serious music on show**, I became an instant and devout fan of Ten Years After and Sly & The Family Stone through the film but the best performance for my money was by Santana.
Now Santana was, for me, a bit boring and Latin – the bits my parents and any of their friends we ever went to dinner at played, failed to grab me at all, it all sounded so safe, but the long drum heavy track they played at Woodstock was anything but. ‘Soul Sacrifice’ really made me sit up and take notice. I love chunks of the man’s stuff now that I’ve been liberated from being a teen idiot, so I thought I would take the chance to head back to where it began with Woodstock Saturday August 16, 1969.
The ever canny Bill Graham wrangled a spot on the bill for the little known new band he was managing, who wound up playing on the 2pm Saturday slot a full month before their debut LP was released; one of the reasons why the LP is so good is that you can hear the band winning over a big crowd just through sheer quality, with maybe a little assistance from the infamous brown acid. Basically the set they played was Santana with a couple of minor omissions and a major inclusion – I far prefer this version.
‘Waiting’ is an arresting opening track, with all manner of bongotastic percussion very much to the fore. The stabs of Gregg Rolie’s keys are genuinely exciting as are those trademarked effortless-sounding slashing runs Mr Santana conjures from his guitar. You can’t hear much crowd noise as the track Latino’s its way to a climax and Santana himself sounds a little nervous tuning up and wondering whether he is technically in New York, or not. The more recognizably rock sounds of ‘Evil Ways’ provoke a notably bigger cheer but nowhere near what the man’s guitar heroics deserve, this version absolutely lays the, admittedly great, studio version to waste.
I have a real thing for the Woodstock Saturday August 16, 1969 version of ‘You Just Don’t Care’, a proper blues bruise if ever I heard one, rougher and readier than anything else here. Gregg Rolie’s keys again add so much to this track. Then it is very much back on board the percussionercoaster for ‘Savor’, the band’s energy levels on this one are just stellar^; it may have just given me my first bongogasm in fact. The whole track dissolves into ‘Jingo’, a great drum workout for young Michael Shrieve, the Woodstock festival’s youngest performer at age 20.
I still think ‘Persuasion’ sounds a little lightweight as a tune, a bit like a throwaway Cream or a lesser Hendrix track, but the guitaring is, yet again, a thing of heavy beauty personified. The intro to ‘Soul Sacrifice’ has been omitted, you can hear it elsewhere but it was announced as the band’s last track. The track is 11-minutes of stone cold genius, but you should know that already folks, even from the 6 minutes that it was edited down to in the film:
Now I have to say that I don’t, as a rule go a big bundle on drum solos^^ but Shrieve’s work on this just serves to drive the song further, faster and harder, it is just incredibly good. Plus you just have to love some of those faces that Santana pulls, my favourite is the ‘man passing a house brick’ face at the 3:55 mark.
But even this isn’t the highlight of Woodstock Saturday August 16, 1969 for me, the closing track is. ‘Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries’ a cover of the Willie Bobo/Melvin lastie track^* a great slice of Afro-Latino jazz rock, there is something so appealing about that gradually descending scale, particularly when the trumpet (played by Areas) cuts in too. I find myself listening to it over and over again.
I do have a real gripe about Woodstock Saturday August 16, 1969 though, despite the fact that it is a really nicely done LP, with great sound by Eddie Kramer and liner notes. My gripe is that none of the band are listed on the sleeve, or the inner which is either criminal oversight, or horrifically indulged ego and I do hope it is the former. Santana may have been the lead banjo player’s surname but Santana were at this point a brilliant band, keepers of the groove – Shrieve, Rolie and bassist David Brown in particular. This omission rankles particularly as the Columbia Legacy team get their names in nice big type on the insert. That sucks ass.
That’s by the by though. Bouyed by the success of their Woodstock appearance Santana were excited to find themselves opening the bill only 111 days later, at a festival dubbed ‘Woodstock West’…
… but Altamont is another story.
PS. The full, uneditied 11 minute hit:
PPS. If you are the sort of completoid who has forked out for the 10 CD The Woodstock Experience box set you’ll already have all the tracks here and almost all of them have been used as bonus tracks here and there on Santana re-releases.
*or indeed Love, if you played ‘Alone Again Or’ and ‘Live And Let Live’ enough times.
**some Godawful John Sebastian stuff aside and while I’m here as much as I truly admire Joan Baez I really can’t abide her voice.
^having two percussionists, José Chepitó Areas and Mike Carabello probably doesn’t hurt.
^^and I say that as someone who saw Vixen live.
^*Willie being father to Beastie Boy percussionist, Eric Bobo. True story.