on 14 July 2002
I first heard this album nearly 30 years ago, and to be frank, didn't like it a lot... the first four albums from Santana were such nuggets that this partly experimental work left me cold in places.
Replaying "Welcome" in 2002 has been an eye-opener, however. I was barely 14 years old when I borrowed it from a friend, so some naivety can be excused, I suppose. It is, quite simply a corker - one of those albums that gets better with repeated plays. When I first heard it I only really liked two tracks, but now I can see a flow to it that escaped me back then. The two tracks I did like are still classics - "Love, Devotion and Surrender" and the still sadly undervalued "Mother Africa".
"Welcome" isn't as instantly accessible as its illustrious predecessors, but it's worth the effort... it's worth it alone for "Mother Africa". My advice is buy it and take your time getting to know it.
on 25 May 2007
I originally bought this album after having got seriously into the first 'Santana' album, and the follow up 'Abraxas' - and boy was I mightily disappointed. Where was the crunching hammond of Greg Rolie or the infectious latin congo drums? Thankfully I had the good sense to go back to this album every now and again, and everytime I did I found that I was loving it more and more.
This is very much a jazz album with rock undertones. Infact you don't really notice Carlos's guitar on some of the tracks at all. Again that really put me off at first, until I started to appreciate the overall groove that the band are able to generate.
I have to say that unless you've listened to the music yourself, it's very hard to liken the sound of this record with anything else. What you get is a seriously deep jazzy vide, superb keyboard and electric piano, brilliantly hippyesque lyrics (my favourite being "Oh mother, listen to the rhythm of your heart beat. It's keeping time with all the universal children") sung by a range of singers male and female, inventive drumming and percussion, and when Carlos does jump to the front of the mix he does so with some beautifully fluid solos.
If you're a little fed up with your usual early 70's rock collection and want to dip your toe into something a little more spicy then this album is highly recommended. You'll find yourself coming back to it again and again.
on 9 December 2002
The previous reviews say much of what I would say about the album's musical quality. This pleases me because I was afraid I was the only one who has 'discovered' the rather awkward beauty of this album, yet here it is with three (now four) glowing tributes and not one negative review amongst them. It's not accessible, it's not easy, and it's not something you want to force yourself to listen to. It's something which comes to you, when you are ready for it.
It's also weak in two key areas. Firstly, it's weak in sleeve notes... I wish I knew who played what, who sang what, and so on. It takes enigmatic silence a little far. Secondly, and crushingly, it stands out as a terrible example of the studio technician's art, being badly recorded and very badly mixed.
But the music is quietly brilliant.
on 29 May 2007
'Welcome' from 1973 is a neglected release from Santana's back catalogue. After the post Woodstock rush of success, and deserved aclaim for delivering some cutting edge merging of rock, latin music and blues. 'Caravanserai' (1972) was far more experimental and jazz influenced than previous work. Carlos' good natured hedonism was moving towards Indian based sprituality; he worked on a joint venture with John McLaughlin 'Love Devotion and Surrender' (1973) dedicated to the teaching of Sri Chinmoy and drawing heavily on John Coltrane. Line up changes in the group carried on, and the musical direction the band would take was in freefall. 'Going Home' opens the album 'Welcome', and features Alice Coltrane's keyboards, seems to belong to 'Caravanserai' type experimental jazz-rock. Then everything changes, a whole sequence of upbeat tracks appear. 'Love Devotion and Surrender', 'When I look Into Your Eyes', and 'Yours is the Light' are infectious Latin jazz funk numbers, interupted by 'Samba De Saulito', an impressive up tempo instrumental. Carlos Santana's guitar is more played down than usual, and the talents of the rest of his associates are on display. 'Mother Africa' is a swirling range of imaginative bass and percussion with quite muted guitars, and 'Light of Life'is more soul based, could almost be Isaac Hayes. Then 'Flame-Sky' , just over eleven minutes of intense, initially quite mellow, guitar orientated work with John McLaughlin and is breath-taking,beautifully atmospheric. The release ends with a fairly competent re-make of John Coltrane's 'Welcome'. Tracks from 'Welcome' did not tend to make it on to the Santana live set lists, there are no Samba Rock anthems, the album is not immediately appealing ,the lyrics are instrospective.In an age where concept albums were popular, the music is pulled in different directions which make it somewhat disjointed. But listen to 'Welcome';its diversity of styles, its freshness, its highlighting of the influence that Soul played on the evolution of Santana's music are very endearing some 34 years later.
on 28 October 2006
This is my favourite Santana album. When I first bought it way back in 1976, I wasn't expecting what I heard. It was a little hard to get into at first, but it grows on you. It's a lovely album. Contains one of Santana's finest pieces "Flame Sky". The whole album is incredible. Whenever I play it, it reminds me of my old surfing days at Mangamaunu.
Continuing to develop the jazz-fusion style first evident on `Caravanserai', this 1973 release is a mature and polished piece of work with probably the most pure-jazz feel of all Santana's 40 years of musical output. `Welcome' was Santana's fifth studio album in as many years.
On first pass, the album seems to embody a laid-back style to the point of being `easy listening'. But listen again: what you discover is a finely crafted work of artistry with a variety of interesting compositions, exemplary production values and never a note out of place. This is a mature work, aimed at a more discerning and mature audience than the (excellent in other ways) band's previous outings.
Some new blood worked with Carlos on these studio sessions, notably Alice Coltrane (widow of the great John Coltrane) on piano, and John McLaughlin, fresh from working with Miles Davis and his own virtuoso fusion band The Mahavishnu Orchestra: i.e. musicians steeped in jazz and with a strong contemporary jazz pedigree. Gregg Rolie had by now departed the band, and a trio of established jazz singers are employed for different numbers: Leon Thomas, Brazilian impresario Flora Purim, and Wendy Haas. The soundscape also deploys tasteful cameos of soprano sax, flute and restrained orchestral strings. All combine to give the album its clean, jazz-fusion sound.
The standout track on the album for fusion fans is `Flame Sky', an intense 11.33 minute, 2-part instrumental tour-de-force in minor keys (there's a key-change in the middle to initiate the second part) with Carlos and John McLaughlin playing off each other with exemplary virtuosity to build a crescendo wall-of-sound climax (nb if you are a fan of McLaughlin's MO studio sessions from 1971-73 and you've never heard `Flame Sky' you're gonna love it). Otherwise, Carlos's own playing is restrained in scope; following the maxim "less is more" he makes just the right contribution to highlight each number, but doesn't overdo it.
Post-2003 re-releases of `Welcome' feature the additional track `Mantra', a nice instrumental jam between Carlos, Tom Coster and Mike Shrieve, which you won't find on earlier issues.
Altogether a great repeat-play album, still fresh after almost 40 years: a beautiful sound for all occasions.
on 31 October 2001
This is one of the best Santana albums and criminally underrated. It was recorded at the time when Santana was mixing with the likes of John McLaughlin and making the most adventurous music of his long and distinguished career. Although it lacks the consistency of the masterpiece Caravanserai and the spark of the Lotus Live album, it does have a variety of material including some Coltrane that sees the band stretching out more than it ever did. After this period, Santana seemed to rethink his strategy and concentrated on crowd pleasing rather than experimenting. Nowadays of course, he appears on every mega-seller going, adding his trademark sound and collecting the cheque. I cant blame him for that - he deserves his success. However, this album comes from a time when the music mattered more than the plaudits.
on 29 August 2003
Here it is, unbelieveably, released in 1973, so fresh,so cool,so relaxed. This is a beautiful album,may well take some time to get into....but thats the game.Nearly all the tracks are so good,but Flame Sky has got to rate as pure, undiluted, genius.
on 12 July 2010
I've loved this album ever since the moment I first heard it. I've never worked out why it was less well regarded than other Santana LPs. I have spent more summers (and winters) than I can remember lying flat on my back listening to this record - in my teens with a spliff in my hand - and as an adult I realised that this record is just as great without artificial enhancement, if not better.
on 18 November 2003
Not a great album, this catches Santana after the jazz developments of Caravanserai and is a continuation down that road with , perhaps, a little more pandering to the mainstream.
The material is generally strong and the playing of course can’t be faulted – it just falls short of the best of Santana’s work, maybe just a little spark of inspiration is missing.
Having said that it is still far superior to the multi-artist dross he’s turned out on the last two albums, Supernatural & Shamen