Santana – Moonflower

Originally released in the fall of 1977, Santana’s rendition of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” proved a serious crossover hit on the rock and jazz charts, propelling the man, his band, and their then-new album back into the limelight. And while it only hit #10 on the Billboard chart, Moonflower achieved double-platinum sales. Unfortunately, it represented Santana’s last chart success until his Grammy-winning Supernatural—and it still stands as the last major success he achieved wholly on his own merit.

The two-record set combines classic Santana tracks captured live in Europe and new material recorded in San Francisco. The original Columbia LPs were mastered by Bernie Grundman, and while my early pressings suffer from a bit of cloudiness and a touch of distortion, they possess much better fidelity than most of the day’s Columbia pressings, which were often aimed at AM radio play.

From the moment a needle is dropped on its surface, it becomes obvious that the Friday Music version boasts much smoother treble, with less grunge overall, allowing you to listen further into the mix than before. The difference becomes even more apparent on the live tracks, where the applause starts to sound remarkably realistic and the drums become more powerful, both in soundstage size and attack. Just listen to the last cut on side three, “Head, Hands and Feet,” where the high-hat cymbals finally sound as if they are actually being played up above the drum heads. Santana’s wailing lead guitar now bursts way out in front of the speakers, adding to the illusion of a live performance—provided your system is up to task.

The LP’s surfaces are exceptionally quiet, contributing to increased tonal contrasts and exposing more low-level details that place more emphasis on the keyboard and percussion work. And while the quality of Friday Music’s output is often sporadic, the label has made excellent choices when it comes to titles that help listeners relive classic rock’s past. The imprint’s treatment of Moonflower rates a solid “A.”  Well done. —Jeff Dorgay

Friday Music, 180g 2LP set