Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin • Love Devotion Surrender

Columbia/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2080
Hybrid SACD
1972/2011

Music

Sound

by Dennis Davis | March 15, 2012

his recording never attained the lift-off that should have accompanied an effort from two mega-stars. Perhaps it was cultish feel of the album, starting with the title and the images of McLaughlin and Santana on the cover, both dressed all in white and standing meekly in awe of their guru, Sri Chinmoy. However, the music was not the devotional new-age fare one might expect from the album cover. Instead, there was a jazz nonet with Santana and McLauglin backed by organ, bass and five percussionists playing two John Coltrane standards and other tunes composed by the two leaders.

Take away the album's title and cover and there is really nothing here that should scare lovers of jazz fusion. The music is some of the best of its type to come out of that period. But there was another reason this record may not have enjoyed the success it deserved, and it’s the sound of the original LP. Most of the fusion released in the 1970s was recorded by Columbia, which was not turning out its finest pressings during that decade. To make matters worse, the mastering engineer seemed to have a much heavier hand on the controls than a decade earlier. Some of Columbia’s worst 1970s masterings were of jazz-rock fusion recordings, perhaps because the loudness of the music inspired more limiting to keep cartridges from mistracking.

This SACD helps repair the damage. It joins the ranks of several '70s jazz LPs have come alive on digital and LP remasterings in the 21st century, the products of more sensible mastering. Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters was released on Blu-Spec CD in the last couple years. While the original LP was a massive hit, the improved sound of this CD is equally massive. An album I never quite connected with in 1973 now sounds fresh. The same can be said for Weather Report’s Heavy Weather, which was released on 45rpm vinyl last year, sounding far better than the original. This newly buffed-up SACD mastering from Rob LoVerde is equally fine and improves upon the original LP in similar ways. You can now turn the music up (and this music calls for it) without having your whole system plunge into a sea of distortion.

If you love hard-driving guitar backed by jazz greats Larry Young on organ and Billy Cobham on drums, playing a memorable version of "A Love Supreme" along with other equally fine tunes, this is the SACD for you. Just close your eyes if you don’t want to see Carlos and John with their heads bowed in prayer. It’s what’s inside that counts.

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