Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 250 - 01/12/17

Santana
Marathon
CBS

This being the last menu over at Luna Kafé, I grab the chance to present my number one album. This LP has been with me from day one, it was the first one I bought, back in 1979 when it was released. It is still the first album I play when setting up my stereo at a new place, and it still sounds just as fresh as it did when I played it the first time. Since then I've played it so many times that I know all the lyrics by heart, and every turn of all the guitar solos. It is one of very few vinyl records that I have literally worn out and had to replace.

The album I'm talking about is Marathon by Santana. I later collected all Santana albums up to the mid-80s, and I do appreciate their older albums, which of course also are generally more critically acclaimed. These earlier albums were also way more successful commercially, not counting Inner Secrets (1978), where their slide into AOR territory began. Now, that album sounds rather uninspired to me, slickly produced and few songs that really burn. I feel the same about Zebop! (1981), also a rather boring album. In the midst of this period we find Marathon (1979), which is a criminally over-looked jewel. Not one bad track. Superb musicianship. A landmark sparkling sound-production, perhaps an example of peaking analog studio engineering before the introduction of digital recording equipment.

Scottish singer Alex Ligertwood sings his heart out on this, his first album with Santana. The bass playing of David Margen is very enjoyable, sharp and fresh, up in the mix and a thrill to listen to on its own. Then of course we have Carlos Santana's blistering on-fire guitar playing, never too much, just snappy to-the-point solos and insertions, all well-planned and superbly executed. The arrangements are perfect constructions, the playing is controlled to the last detail, but the overall production still comes through full of liveliness, like aural fireworks. Sure, the lyrics are all love and light and some songs are very pop-oriented, but I have never skipped a track when listening to this album. Simply thrilling, from beginning to end. Great cover too.

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