Every artist must sell their work to survive. Often they change what they do or how they do it to remain relevant to current trends. This balance or Jekyll and Hyde act has sometimes left us without many traces of what an artist could have been. Sometimes it makes an artist what they are. Either way, there does exist a reality that many artists must face. The searching for self while creating various expressions of art.
In Carlos Santana‘s music, he began exploring more jazz related constructions and lest populist rock fusion. The albums were jazz heaven. But people who could not handle listening to the more complex ideas began to waft away from buying albums. This simple act from simple people put pressure on Carlos Santana to shift away from the personal music expression and to use more popular sounds.
During his personal journey, Carlos Santana took upon himself a new addition to his name. Devadip – “The lamp, light and eye of God”. The benefits of giving people what they expect from Santana have allowed Devadip Carlos Santana to pursue the inner passion of jazz. The success of another album gave him the backing from CBS to pursue a solo adventure, “Oneness: Silver Dreams – Golden Reality’“. Printed above this album title on the cover is the ornate text ‘Devadip’. Even in recent history the release of ‘Supernatural’ brought great success through striving to meet current popular sounds. Yet always there has been a Santana whose greatness surpasses the sounds of popularity. What does that greatness sound like?
1. The Chosen Hour – Meditation bells being struck and an ohm. This track quickly fades into a live performance which comprise the next tracks. This set was performed in Osaka, Japan.
2. Arise and Awake – A beautifully searing synthesizer pushes forward a fantastic theme which Devadip echoes. So expertly played is the synthesizer that one could be easily inclined to believe it is a guitar with multiple effects on it. For all we know it may be. The track is almost too short for as soon as we are drawn in the theme it is stolen from us.
3. Light Versus Darkness – The bass drops us down with keys added giving us soft padding. Clicks and a drum roll pick up into a percussion whirlwind. Devadip plays with the bass and then pulls that whirlwind into a frenzied float that rushes and soars at the same time. Rhythmic and musical outbursts swirl between the legato sustain of the new theme’s introduction.
4. Jim Jeannie – Chico Hamilton a jazz band leader and drummer first released ‘Jim- Jeannie’ in 1966. Here we have a quick but formidable cover with Devadip taking the lead saxophones role over. It is immensely beautiful playing by a talented group of individuals who communicate with each other using this fantastic song as the discussion topic. They spin the language of the theme into new realms and swirl effortlessly into an unanticipated ending. Applause reminds us we are live.
5. Transformation Day – The familiar sound of Latin percussion hit us with immense string pads playing a parsed down excerpt from Alan Hovhaness’ 2nd Symphony ‘Mysterious Mountain’. Hovhaness is a strongly overlooked name in compositional history. This is a beautiful symphony that was nearly pulled into existence by Leopold Stokowski who wanted to use it for his premier performance with the Houston Symphony. The utter beauty of that work should have made this American born composer of Armenian parents a household name even today. This is his most often performed work. Here though that is just an introduction of notes to give us a reference point for compositional inspiration of this thematic jam. We often return to the theme with hints and aspiration.
6. Victory – Soaring sensations crown the ending of this live set. We are given this information of transformation by the liner notes which state the live set is "through victory”. It is a scintillating ending to the journey. All the tracks flow together which makes it difficult to describe as it is clearly a set; Contrived and edited to be taken as a complete listening adventure this is the essence of what live performance can do. It is not a replication of a recording on stage. It is the recording.
7. Silver Dreams Golden Smiles – Saunders King was a brilliant blues player and singer. His career was dotted with personal struggles including the suicide of his wife and his own heroin use. Most notable is his recording of "S.K. Blues" which features an early example of electric blues guitar excellence. Here his voice is almost magical as it floats over the dreamy strings. It is hard to imagine that his career started around 1939 and he was born in 1909, making him roughly 70 at the time of recording. Saunders adds in rhythm guitar which isn’t very forward in the mix however the real highlight is listening to his smooth soulful sound that, given his age, is remarkably youthful. He croons throughout the song setting up sentimentality. Devadip Santana sneaks into a solo that is crisp and clean. It is very forward and almost flirtatiously smooth. The song is thoughtful and a decent transition from the live segment into the studio work. The strings are divinely appointed. And the keys hover nicely in the background. This is an excellently executed track because careful listening reveals how carefully crafted this track was. It is easy to forget that this was recorded with analog equipment. And on vinyl it is amazingly balanced and mastered. Every element has just enough room yet still has a moment to shine and shimmer. It is wistful and meaningful, yet there is a subtle excitement in hearing such a historically relevant artist such as Saunders. His voice pulls you into the ambiance with a hypnotic lilt.
8. Cry of the Wilderness – Before you can get to comfortable, this track erupts into the soundscape. The previous song has lifted you up into a float and quickly you are racing through a joyful landscape of the artists’ design. The drums are excellent here and so is the bass playing. The guitar playing is transfixing and melodic. A second listening may be necessary just to stay focused on the fantastic backdrop that flows like a rushing river of sound rippling, even gusting like wind, behind Devadip. He overdubs himself in a beautiful moment of echoing thematic elements which repeats aand slowly fades. So brilliant is this moment that if you stop the track before it fades you may find your mind still singing the tune.
9. Guru’s Song – This song was actually written by his guru Sri Chinmoy, therefore the title is very straightforward. The song is an interesting departure from the playing most are accustomed to hearing from any Santana that is commonly known. He simply plays the melody with skill of execution while the piano accompanies him. It ends unexpectedly with a lift to the fourth and if you are listening closely there are some beautiful harmonics that add a fluorescence to the final note that sustains on the guitar. That note fades and we are left with the ringing vibrating harmonic, and a sense of suspended completeness that perfectly portrays a meditative sensation.
1. Oneness – Although there is a track titled ‘Silver Dreams Golden Smiles’ the album title is ‘Oneness- Silver Dreams Golden Reality’ that makes this the title track. Meditative waves. Slight rippling on the guitar arpeggios. The organ moving between smooth and vibrato spun tones. This is all to set the mood for what is nearly a free form jam in which we hear improvisational thought and emotive playing. It is so far removed from the calculated music that dominates the current spectrum of chart topping hits. This is the point where music ceases to be a sentence built according to grammatical structure and predictable. This is music as a conversation and a transcendent experience. You must let Devadip speak and you must listen. Much has been lost because of the willingness of the industry to promote unskilled Ken and Barbie dolls instead of talented artists. There is no clearer reminder of this than this album and it’s title track in particular. Today’s music dominated by predictable bass drops and the nearly ubiquitous rising synth tonalities over a quickening snare that leads to an explosive pause that precede them; are so far from the skill exhibited in this track that the difference is hard to exemplify. It is not apples and oranges. It is a pop tart compared to a Royal Wedding Cake. This level of skill still exists amongst us. It is almost criminal that we have allowed ourselves to be robbed of trans formative listening experiences. This track creates Oneness- the oneness where you must become a part of the experience by attentive listening. Letting go of what you expect and allowing the artist to tell you something about their artistry. It is the longest track on the album and well worth the listen. Here the drum roll doesn’t equate to the typical four on the floor orgasm but precedes a creative drop where the drum solos a bit rhythmically before a fantastic soaring synthesizer pulls us into a psychedelic jazz frenzy! The exclamation point is necessary considering how today’s synthesizers are used almost as loop forming place mats. There is nothing short of actually hearing this track that can do it justice. The ending is a phenomenon of the listening experience. If your consciousness wasn’t lifted into Oneness yet- it may be after you hear this.
2. Life is just a Passing Parade – This track is not a march! In fact it is more a preview of the kind of collaboration that would years later lead to Supernatural. The song lyrics are autobiographical, but the singer is Greg Walker in the beginning of his career. He auditioned for this job and was clearly a great choice. It is a driving track that is extremely ahead of its time as much as it is a product of its time. Parts of it reflect the coming Neo-Soul movement and others are simply funky to the max. It is genre bending and much of that is due to the effect of Walker's soulful sound added to the mix and of course the way the song itself is written. This really was a track that pushed the future but was hidden from it in many ways. The album didn’t receive wide acclaim and still hasn’t, but this song demonstrates along with the other tracks on this B side what was to dominate the Jazz/R&B landscape for almost 20 years. Santana was not alone. Many artists contributed – Chick Corea, Spyro Gyra, George Benson and the list goes on and on and on… Yet there are sound combinations that are central ideas to entire albums in different jazz genres which are all present on this side of the album, and that are embodied in one song. It is hard to stress enough how many different sides of Devadip Carlos Santana we are hearing and how much his talent rippled into the consciousness of jazz and Pop.
3. Golden Dawn – Simple acoustic rest. That is how this track plays tucked between the previous driving almost hinting at Neo-Soul funky track and what follows. Dropping the electric in favor of a softer sound we hear a beautiful simple tune with no words. Greg Walker isn't credited for singing this track. In fact we are only left to assume this is Devadip alone. It is a beautiful and personal reflection. Jazz, Blues, and Latin influences turn this into a soft lullaby that fades incomplete.
4. Free as the Morning Sun – Lionel Richie would make us dance ‘All Night Long’ four years later. I tempt you to try to sing that along with this song for just a moment. The inclusion and fusion of Timbales into the jazz structure is marvelous. The song is soulful and as mentioned before an overlooked prelude to sound combinations that others would utilize and a part of the sound others had used already.
5. I Am Free – This is a departure from what has come before and maybe so much that it is not consonant with what we have heard. However somehow it still fits and flows. It is organic and fits the feel of the entire album. Enjoy it for what it is- a unique and meditative spoken word track.
6. Song for Devadip – This was not written by Devadip but for him. It serves as a coda to this album and lets us down easily out of the sound-flow that has erupted beforehand. Devadip easily interprets the song and even treats us to some sensational playing that makes it easy to understand why ‘Santana’ is a name most people know. This is your uplifting reward for making it through the journey and the heights of happiness.
Who is Devadip Carlos Santana? This may or may not be the most personal musical statement he has ever recorded. It does however serve as a very introspective portrait of an artist. A self portrait. Isn’t that about as personal as an artist gets; to show us how they look at themselves?