Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Best Album Covers: Santana


This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.

Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.

Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?


Growing up as I did, and as a third-generation Mexican-American, I’m well aware the 60s were a special time in music. Not only because of the creativity loosed upon the world via the British Invasion at the start and explosion of pop culture throughout, but to the overdue impact of Latin Rock by decade’s end.

A time that heralded the coming out for Rock en Español. Sure, Richie Valens (La Bamba) and Daniel Flores (Tequila) were the vanguard in the previous decade. Still, many believe, as I, la música established in the U.S. during this turbulent time was much more special because of it. Amazon’s editorial review said it best when it came to this bridgehead album:

“The self-titled 1969 debut by San Francisco ballroom favorite Santana singlehandedly brought Latin rock into the mainstream. Full of steamy, percolating Latin percussion and leader Carlos Santana’s stinging, razor-sharp guitar work, Santana was released in August of that year, the same month as the group’s legendary appearance at Woodstock.”

Awash in the beauty and pulse of Afro-Latin music blended with 60s rock, Santana‘s distinct cover art and design helped to manifest that originality. Something not seen prior to this…like ever. There may have been pencil-drawn artwork on other artists’ LPs, but I’d wager none before did it in a way that looked so damn cool or as intriguing.

The penned figure of a growling lion stared back into potential listeners eyes with a strange ferocity. Those hooked began to discover the hidden objects nested within the mane, eyes, nose and mouth. The attached title, dipped in graffiti typography, resulted in a trippy album design. One befitting the era and a visual precursor to the new, mind-blowing sound within.


Artist: Santana
Title: Santana
Date: 1969
Label: Columbia
Track Listing (and yes, turn that record over):

Side one

  1. “Waiting”
  2. “Evil Ways”
  3. “Shades of Time”
  4. “Savor”
  5. “Jingo”

Side two

  1. “Persuasion”
  2. “Treat”
  3. “You Just Don’t Care”
  4. “Soul Sacrifice”

The entire series can be found here.

9 Responses to “Best Album Covers: Santana”

  1. Morgan R. Lewis

    Great album cover indeed. I love Santana’s guitar work, but I haven’t been able to pick up any of his older stuff for some reason.


  2. le0pard13

    Oh, yeah. Santana’s guitar work has been quite somethin’. The old stuff is still pretty popular then ;-). Thanks so much, Morgan.



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