Carlos Santana and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin – Love Devotion Surrender – Columbia/ Sony Legacy/ Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab stereo-only SACD UDSACD 2080 (1972), 38:54 ***½:
(Carlos Santana, guitar; Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, guitar, piano; Khalid Yasin (Larry Young), organ; Armando Peraza, congas; Billy Cobham, drums; Jan Hammer, drums; Doug Rauch, bass; Mike Shrieve, drums)
In 1972 when Love Devotion Surrender was first released, both Carlos Santana and (Mahavishnu) John McLaughlin were devotees of the Indian guru/mystic, Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy was based both out of Europe and the Bay Area. Santana and McLaughlin are shown on the album cover wearing devotional white clothing, and on the back of the album having hands clasped standing next to their inspiration. The album liner notes are devoted solely to Chinmoy’s discussion of the album’s title theme.
Appropriately the albums tracks were a mix of John Coltrane’s spiritual themes (“A Love Supreme” and “Naima”), as well as three of McLaughlin’s devotional numbers, “The Life Divine,” the traditional “Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord”, and “Meditation.” To show John’s devotion to Chinmoy, the publication of his compositions combine Warner Publishing Company with Chinmoy Music Inc.
Listening to this release over 40 years later in glorious, shimmering hi-res SACD stereo, with remastering at Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, by Rob Lo Verde, we hear how the music recorded then was influenced by Miles Davis’ electric period. McLaughlin was an active member of Davis’ electric group, and the jazz fusion influence is strong. What we have are largely electric guitar jams, supplemented by band members of both Santana’s and McLaughlin’s groups of that period. Three different drummers split percussion duties with Santana’s incomparable conga drummer, Armando Peraza. The wild card adding to the mix is organist Larry Young. He is the perfect foil between the two fiery guitarists.
Immediately, “A Love Supreme” features incendiary guitar over the track’s repeated lyric. McLaughlin’s guitar voicings are more rapidfire than Carlos’ more rapturous lines. Larry Young stirs the pot.
“Naima” is meditative with the two guitars in an acoustic mode, and too brief at only a bit over three minutes. I wish they would have expanded the theme here. “The Life Divine” sounds like a Santana cut of the ’70s complemented by the vocal drone of the song’s title. Percussion rules behind the guitars who are off on a tear.
The longest track by far is “Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord” at over 15 minutes, and it is the featured track on the album. This track is most well-known as associated with Pharaoh Sanders, who recorded it in 1970 on Def Dumb Blind for Impulse Records. Pharaoh’s version was more lyrical and used some silent sections to enhance the mood. Here the guitars rule and their power dominates, backed by Peraza, Young, and the drums. It is a tour de force and will be loved in the richness of the SACD remastering by fans of Carlos and John.
“Meditation” closes the album with McLaughlin’s piano mating with guitar in a deeply moving rendition. A bit more of this contemplation would have fleshed out the album’s intent set out in their master’s explanation of the “Love Devotion Surrender” spiritual theme, rather than the guitar feud found on this 1972 release. There is no denying, however, the guitar mastery of its leaders.
TrackList: A Love Supreme, Naima, The Life Divine, Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord, Meditation