Saturday, June 7, 2014

Santana Abraxas

There was a time (really not so distant) that music was pre-packaged and sold in physical stores. Some of these stores were large chains while others were smaller specialty shops. The music was actually cut into large black vinyl discs. To transfer and replay the original music a sharp metal stylus was placed directly onto the disc as a device rotated it at a prescribed speed. The information relayed from the intricate indentations cut into the surface grooves became electronic signals.  The sounds (vibrations) were projected through speakers as remarkable; exacting and sometimes beautifully enhanced versions of the music. Generations were delighted to listen to music in this manner and were not in the least bothered or unhappy to pay reasonable prices for the privilege.
The packages for these collections (albums) were decorative, intricate and witty compositions. They ranged from professionally designed original works to reproductions of popular art and many times photographs. Often the recording artist themselves displayed their own art or those of their friends and colleagues. The images would often wrap around the flat square shaped objects into mural like extravagances. The inner folds of the packaging contained along with the vinyl discs; information, lyrics, notes, poetry, photographs and posters. 
The second album for the now immortal rock band “Santana” was memorable both for the remarkable, visionary music and it’s daring, innovative packaging. The cover was the creation of artist Mati Klarwein. It was a wrap-around reproduction of a biblical event “The Annunciation.” Klarwein chose to depict the virgin as a nude Black woman and the angel Gabriel as a red and blue winged, tattooed herald. The painting of Klarwein was so dense with images and detail that it could be studied many times over as it engaged and challenged the viewer.   What was the symbolism? What were the subliminal messages? The questions remain and are subject to continuing interpretations and discussions. There was also a poster included in the first pressings of the release that was to adorn many a dormitory and bed room wall. The title of “Abraxas” was adopted from the Hermann Hesse novel “Demian.” A line from Demien was inscripted on the cover:

“We stood before it and began to freeze inside from the exertion. We questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, and prayed to it: We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our beloved, called it Abraxas…”
                                                                                                         Hermann Hesse


             “Santana Abraxas” was an event; an enduring treasure, a cherished thing.

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