Sunday, September 4, 2011

Favorite Albums: Love, Devotion, and Surrender- Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin

This is the first of a new blog series on my Favorite Albums. Some will fit into the category of Classic Albums, that will seem predictable choices; others, like this one, reflect my own personal taste, and may seem a random or obscure choice to some.

Love, Devotion, and Surrender was an collaborative album by Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, released in 1973. It was their tribute to Jazz musician John Coltrane, and reflected their enthusiastic spirituality.

Guitar greats Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin were mutual fans, and as they developed a friendship, they began playing together. Santana felt he learned a lot from McLaughlin, and increased his technical proficiency. But Santana has always played with intense feeling, and on this record, he exhibits some of his trademark searing solos.

Another strong bond between the two musicians was their spirituality. They both practiced meditation, and McLaughlin introduced Santana to his guru at the time Sri Chinmoy. The title of the album- Love, Devotion, and Surrender- reflects concepts in Sri Chinmoy's teaching.

The album is also a tribute to John Coltrane, and the musicians recorded two of his songs here, the opening track, A Love Supreme; and Naima, a lovely ballad performed on acoustic guitar.

John McLaughlin wrote two other compositions, the Life Divine, which is the center piece of the album in my view, and an exhilarating display of the two guitarist's virtuosity; and Meditation, a instrumental guitar ballad.

The album is rounded out by an instrumental version of traditional Christian hymn, Let us go into the House of the Lord, which is performed in the jazz-fusion style of the album.

I am sure that the musicians, who were trying to promote a spiritual message, may have been disappointed to learn that this album was one of the favorites for me and my friends to listen to stoned back in the 70's; the mostly instrumental, jazz-fusion style and flashy guitar work on the album is perfect for psychedelic listening and recreational pot use.

But now, with drug use three decades behind me, I listen to it straight and find it just as compelling and beautiful and moving. Even though both men broke with Sri Chinmoy long ago, the spiritual eagerness expressed in the album remains vital for a life long spiritual seeker such as my self. I still listen to it quite often. The over the top virtuosity displayed in some of the tracks is still a guilty pleasure, like it was when I was a teenager.

I am a fan of both guitarist, and they both have no doubt recorded much better records than this one; still, it remains a personal favorite of mine, one that I often listen to on my blackberry. It has aged well, and its beauty is even more apparent 38 years later.

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