March 2008

Santana - Santana
Mobile Fidelity UDCD 773
Format: CD
Originally released: 1969
Reissue released: 2007

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality *****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Carlos Santana was 13 when his family moved from Mexico to San Francisco, but Carlos stayed behind in Tijuana, where he was already making money as a musician. He joined the rest of his family a year later and soon immersed himself in his new home’s vibrant, varied music scene. In 1966, a year after graduating from high school, he formed the Santana Blues Band. By 1968, the band, now just Santana, had built a reputation in the Bay Area, and Bill Graham booked them for a debut at the Fillmore West that June. Columbia Records signed them, but it was their appearance at Woodstock in 1969, just prior to the release of Santana, their first LP, that ensured their popularity.

By my count, Columbia and Sony Music have released Santana in four versions since 1969. I own three -- the Columbia 360 stereo LP, the CD release from the late '80s, and the remastered CD from 1998 (Sony’s fourth version is a two-CD Legacy Edition, which is based on the 1998 remaster). Mobile Fidelity’s new Ultradisc II version of this venerable title leaves the other CDs far behind. The conga drums are resonant and cleanly etched, other instruments are sharply focused and precisely arranged in the soundstage, and vocals are vividly presented. While there are things about the LP that I enjoy, this CD gold captures more detail while retaining much of the warmth of analog. For those who want the full analog experience, there is a MoFi LP of Santana as well.

Santana was an impressive first try, but the band would record a more confident record, Abraxas, in 1970. Mobile Fidelity released a version of that recording in 1991 and has an Ultradisc II CD on its schedule of future releases. The LP is already available.