Santana – Tokyo Amigos (Tarantura TCDSAN-1-1, 2)

Santana - Tokyo Amigos

Tokyo Amigos (Tarantura TCDSAN-1-1, 2)

Budokan Dai Hall, Tokyo, Japan – February 20, 1976

Disc 1: (48:46) Monitor Check, Announcement, Bill Graham’s Introduction, Incident At Neshabur, Black Magic Woman, Gypsy Queen, Oye Como Va, Let It Shine, Europa, Dance Sister Dance, Give And Take

Disc 2: (65:03) Gitano, Savor, Percussion Solo, Toussaint L’Overture, Let Me, Band Introduction, Soul Sacrifice, Percussion Solo, Tokyo Jam, Soul Sacrifice, Samba Pa Ti, Evil Ways, Message/Outro

For Santana’s seventh studio LP, Amigos saw a return to a more commercial sound and brought the band more success than their previous two records, the jazz-fusion Borboletta and Welcome. With Greg Walker as new lead vocalist Amigos took Santana into more of an R&B/soul direction than anything they had done previously. Greg Walker was the perfect fit for this type of venture and over the next few years he would prove himself to be an important part of Santana history.

There are at least two different recordings from this show. The first tape was released as Budokan 1976 (Masterport-215) on silver disc over a decade ago while Tokyo Amigos comes from a new uncirculated Mr. Peach recording. Like most Mr. Peach recordings it is very complete, including the Japanese announcement preceding Bill Graham’s introduction of Santana. The recording sounds slightly more distant than most Mr. Peach tapes and is a bit boomy in places but is still very enjoyable with a nice big atmosphere. Some minor “near by” audience noise is picked up at times but for the most part they are polite and non-intrusive. In comparison, Masterport may be a little sharper as far as detail goes but Tarantura is definitely louder with an overall fuller sound.

February 20th is the first of two nights at the Budokan and also the first night of the Japanese tour. The instrumental “Incident At Neshabur”, from Santana’s second LP, Abraxas, opens the set. An important song to Carlos, this is still included in most concerts even to this day. The track goes through some nice changes from heavy to slow and melodic and highlights the talents of keyboardist Tom Coster. Following the familiar “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” and “Oye Como Va” Greg Walker says “This song is from our new album, Amigos” before “Let It Shine”. The new record wouldn’t be released until March so this would be the first glimpse they would get of some of the new tracks.

“Europa” receives applause from the unmistakable opening notes which is strange considering the record wasn’t released yet. Carlos delivers some of his most heartfelt playing and it is obvious that he actually feels every single note. They get very quiet for the ending and without hesitation launch into the opening track from the Amigos record, “Dance Sister Dance”. The song is broken down into two halves, the first being the Latin flavored vocal section and the instrumental ending which again features some amazing solos from Tom Coster.

“Give And Take” is the only carry over from the Borboletta record and tour and is a funky guitar driven track that works great in a live setting. “Gitano” features Carlos on acoustic guitar and Mr. Peach’s recording captures all the subtle nuances in Carlos’ intro to great effect. “Savour” takes them back to their roots again. With only one percussion player on the tour, Armando Peraza, it relies more on “Ndugu” Leon Chancler’s drums than the usual versions. Armando takes the spotlight for a six minute percussion solo. The audience clapping in time lays a nice backdrop for him to solo over.

“Toussaint” is just an all out keyboard/guitar duel, during the ten minutes it builds to an unbearable tension before giving way to Carlos’ guitar crash. After “Let Me”, one of the funkiest tunes ever written, Peraza lays down a nice rhythm for Carlos to introduce the band. A short funky jam leads to “Soul Sacrifice” and then another three minutes of drum and percussion groove again. A drum and keyboard jam follows, indexed separately as “Tokyo Jam”, before returning to the “Sacrifice” theme. They reference the “Sunshine Of Your Love” riff in the ending.

“Samba Pa Ti” takes the listener from a somber mood into a nice smooth up-tempo groove over the course of nine minutes. This is played almost non-stop with “Evil Ways” and is another vehicle for the Japanese audience to clap along with. “We’ll see you all tomorrow…we love you” are Greg Walker’s closing remarks. I hope Mr. Peach attended the following day’s concert as well.

Mr. Peach’s cache of tapes includes a nice variety of artists and we can now add Santana to the list. With so few Santana titles coming out on silver these days, I hope Mr. Peach and Tarantura have more up their sleeve for us. It comes in a glossy gatefold sleeve with a filmstrip motif on the cover with live photos throughout and a picture of the master tapes in the middle. The classy picture discs each features a different photo of Carlos. Tokyo Amigos is highly recommended to Santana collectors not only for the excellent performance but also for the lack of silver Santana product being offered these days.

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