JJ 12/73: Carlos Santana/Mahavishnu John McLaughlin: Love, Devotion, Surrender

Fifty years ago Charles Le Vay thought the duo's uptempo treatment of A Love Supreme would have Coltrane turning in his grave. First published in Jazz Journal December 1973


There are hardly more different guitar techniques than those of Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, and their colla­boration seemed a dubious venture from the start: one built more on a shared religion, rather than genuine musical kinship. Frankly, I find the presence of the two guitarists together somewhat embarrassing, especially when there’s any lick-swapping going on – the master of the one-note samba naturally comes off worse than our Mahavishnu.

The basic sound is that of Santana – the group, that is – and as such is pretty boring, but as it’s been promoted as the new Santana album, I see no reason to castigate McLaughlin in length, except to say that he’s not at home surrounded by bongos, nor by Larry Young’s tedious organ. (Hasn’t he been through that be­fore?) Santana fans will love Let Us Go Into The House Of Our Lord, quite an unmercifully long guitar thrash. A Love Supreme and The Life Divine feature their respective chants, and I’m still recovering from the ghastly bad taste of the former’s screaming up­tempo treatment. Trane, as they say, will be turning in his grave.

McLaugh­lin’s real contributions stick out like sore thumbs: Naima is a multi-tracked acoustic a la ‘My Goal Is Beyond’ – pleasant enough, but again, it’s hard to listen to a Trane composition played by someone else completely objectively. McLaughlin, again on acoustic, together with Jan Hammer on piano (is that why he’s billed as a percussionist?) make Meditation a moving balladic piece in the vein of the trio numbers on the Mahavishnu Orchestra albums. The number is faded in and out by a majes­tic and sonorous organ chord, but all the same, 3 minutes do not an album make.

Incidentally, don’t let the fine front photo of McLaughlin with a fatherly arm around Santana deceive you about the quality of the music. It’s a beautiful cover and the clothes are nice, but Santana’s unfortunately awkward pos­ture on the back cover sums it all up better.

A Love Supreme; Naima; The Life Divine (20½ min) – Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord; Meditation (18½ min)
Carlos Santana (gtr); Mahavishnu John McLaughlin (gtr/pno): Khalid Yasin (Larry Young) (org): Armando Peraza (congas); Billy Cobham (dm): Don Alias (dm): Jan Hammer (dm); Doug Rauch (bs); James (Mingo) Lewis (perc).
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