Abraxas (album)

Abraxas is the second studio album by Latin rock band Santana. It was released on September 23, 1970 by Columbia Records and became the band's first album to reach number one in the United States.

Album cover from a painting by Mati Klarwein
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 23, 1970 (1970-09-23)
RecordedApril 17–May 2, 1970
StudioWally Heider Studios
(San Francisco, California)
Pacific Recording Studios
(San Mateo, California)
ProducerFred Catero, Carlos Santana
Santana chronology
Santana III
Singles from Abraxas
  1. "Black Magic Woman"
    Released: 1970
  2. "Oye Como Va"
    Released: 1971
  3. "Hope You're Feeling Better"
    Released: 1971


The title of the album originates from a line in Hermann Hesse's book Demian, quoted on the album's back cover: "We stood before it and began to freeze inside from the exertion. We questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it: We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our beloved, called it Abraxas...."[1]

Although the 2015 article by Corbin Reiff in Ultimate Guitar Classics, cited above, includes a quotation from Carlos Santana with regard to the nature of the cover art of Santa’s Abraxas, the Herman Hesse attribution with regard to the title itself isn’t supported there. Apparently, Hesse’s Abraxas is itself derived from the Greek Abraxas, “a word of mystic meaning in the system of the Gnostic Basilides, being there applied to the 'Great Archon' (Gk., megas archōn), the princeps of the 365 spheres (Gk., ouranoi)”.


Carlos Santana had been interested in Fleetwood Mac's leader and songwriter Peter Green, having seen him perform at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, and decided to cover the band's song "Black Magic Woman". Both were influenced as guitarists by B.B. King. The band added a cover of Gabor Szabo's instrumental "Gypsy Queen" to the end.[2] "Oye Como Va" was a hit by Tito Puente in the early 1960s and the group played it live regularly, as they realized it was good for audiences to dance to.[3]

"Incident at Neshabur" was co-written by Santana and his friend Alberto Gianquinto, who played piano on the track. Gregg Rolie played the other keyboards, contrasting with Gianquinto's jazz-influenced style. It ran through various time and key signatures.[4]

The instrumental, "Samba Pa Ti" ("Samba for You"), was written by Santana after he saw a jazz saxophonist performing in the street outside his apartment.[4] It was later covered by José Feliciano, who added lyrics, and also by Angélique Kidjo, who put lyrics in Yoruba, on her album Oyo. It is also one of the tracks featured in Nick Hornby's book 31 Songs.

Cover artEdit

The album cover features the 1961 painting Annunciation by German-French painter Mati Klarwein.[5] According to the artist, it was one of the first paintings he did after relocating to New York City. Carlos Santana reportedly noticed it in a magazine and asked that it be on the cover of the band's upcoming album.[6] On the back of the record sleeve the cover art is just credited to 'MATI'. It is now considered a classic of rock album covers.[5][7][8] Klarwein went on to design album artwork for many notable artists, including Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Gregg Allman.

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [9]
Christgau's Record GuideC+[10]
Rolling Stone(favorable)[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [12]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [13]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 207 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[14] and again in a 2012 revised list.[15] In 2000 it was voted number 202 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[16] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[17]

Rock critic Robert Christgau, in one of his capsule reviews in The Village Voice, at the time of the album's release, gave it a rating of only C+, which denotes "a not disreputable performance, most likely a failed experiment or a pleasant piece of hackwork."[10]


Abraxas was deemed "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in their National Recording Registry in 2016.[18]

The album is briefly mentioned in the 2009 film A Serious Man, though the film is set three years before the album was released.

Track listingEdit

Side one
1."Singing Winds, Crying Beasts" (Instrumental)Michael Carabello4:51
2."Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen"Peter Green/Gábor Szabó5:24
3."Oye Cómo Va"Tito Puente4:17
4."Incident at Neshabur" (Instrumental)Alberto Gianquinto, Carlos Santana4:58
Side two
1."Se Acabó"José Areas2:50
2."Mother's Daughter"Gregg Rolie4:25
3."Samba Pa Ti" (Instrumental)Santana4:45
4."Hope You're Feeling Better"Rolie4:10
5."El Nicoya"Areas1:30

Later re-issuesEdit

1998 remastered edition
10."Se Acabó" (Live at the Royal Albert Hall, London, England, April 18, 1970)[19] (1998 edition)3:47
11."Toussaint L'Overture" (Live at the Royal Albert Hall, London, England, April 18, 1970) (1998 edition)4:52
12."Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen" (Live at the Royal Albert Hall, London, England, April 18, 1970) (1998 edition)4:57



Additional personnelEdit

Release historyEdit

  • In 1990, CBS/Sony published a remastered edition on Audio CD (Universal Product Code: 7464301302 ).
  • In 1991, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a remastered version on their Ultradisc (24K) Gold CD (UDCD 552).
  • In 1997, ARS (Audiophile record service Joerg Kessler) of Germany, released a 180 gram 100% virgin vinyl pressing mastered from the original analog tape. It is (Pallas) Germany pressed. Catalog # Ars 32032.
  • In 1998, Sony published a remastered version, which included three previously unreleased live tracks: "Se A Cabo", "Toussaint L'Overture" and "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen," recorded at the Royal Albert Hall on April 18, 1970.
  • In 1998, SME records in Japan, part of Sony Music, also released the remastered version as an SACD. This disc is stereo only, and furthermore, it is a single layer SACD, which means that ordinary CD players will not play it. This disc contains the same bonus tracks as the ordinary 1998 remastered CD.
  • In 2008, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a remastered version on their Ultradisc II (24K) Gold CD (UDCD 775) & GAIN 2™ Ultra Analog LP 180g Series (MFSL305).
  • In 2016 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a new, limited edition, 45 rpm 2-LP box set of Abraxas called the 1 step (UD1S). The set was limited to 2500 copies worldwide and involved a process where several of the traditional steps in making a vinyl record were bypassed in order to get a more original sound. It is mastered from the original analog tape.


Weekly chartsEdit

Year Album details Peak chart positions
1970 1 1 2 7 7 3 7


Year Title Peak chart positions
1970 "Black Magic Woman" 4 15 4 14
1971 "Oye Como Va" 13 13 5 16 29
"Hope You're Feeling Better"
1974 "Samba Pa Ti"[24] 29
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[25] 3× Platinum 300,000^
France (SNEP)[26] Platinum 300,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[27] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[28] 5× Platinum 5,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone



  1. ^ Reiff, Corbin. "45 Years Ago: Santana Deliver a Latin Rock Masterpiece, 'Abraxas'". Ultimate Classic Rock.
  2. ^ Weinstein 2009, pp. 34-35.
  3. ^ Weinstein 2009, p. 35.
  4. ^ a b Weinstein 2009, p. 36.
  5. ^ a b "Artists You Should Know: Mati Klarwein" by Tom Schnabel, KCRW, 27 May 2011
  6. ^ Annunciation by Mati Klarwein - 1961 (Abraxas) from the artist's website
  7. ^ Abraxas in the Album Cover Art Gallery
  8. ^ "The 50 Greatest Album Covers of All Time", Billboard, 12 November 2015
  9. ^ Henderson, Alex. Abraxas at AllMusic. Retrieved 2005-09-15.
  10. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: S". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 12, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  11. ^ Nash, Jim (December 24, 1970). "Santana Abraxas > Album Review". Rolling Stone (73). Archived from the original on 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2006-07-25.
  12. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). "Santana". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 717–718. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Portions posted at "Santana > Album Guide". rollingstone.com. Archived from the original on 2012-01-28. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
  13. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  14. ^ Levy, Joe; Steven Van Zandt (2006) [2005]. "205 | Abraxas - Santana". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1-932958-61-4. OCLC 70672814. Archived from the original on 2007-11-06. Retrieved 9 March 2006.
  15. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  16. ^ Colin Larkin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 101. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  17. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  18. ^ "National Recording Registry Recognizes "Mack the Knife," Motown and Mahler", Library of Congress, 23 March 2016
  19. ^ "Santana - Abraxas". Discogs.
  20. ^ Abraxas (Media notes).
  21. ^ https://www.moderndrummer.com/article/april-1984-michael-carabello-return-to-the-jungle/
  22. ^ https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Universal_Tone/XNcNAwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=singing%20winds
  23. ^ https://www.discogs.com/Santana-Abraxas/master/31598
  24. ^ British Hit Singles and Albums - Guinness World Records 2006
  25. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Santana – Abraxas". Music Canada.
  26. ^ "French album certifications – Santana – Abraxas" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique.
  27. ^ "British album certifications – Santana – Abraxas". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Abraxas in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  28. ^ "American album certifications – Santana – Abraxas". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.