Love Devotion Surrender is an album released in 1973 by guitarists Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, with the backing of their respective bands (Santana and The Mahavishnu Orchestra). The album was inspired by the teachings of Sri Chinmoy and intended as a tribute to John Coltrane. It was certified Gold in 1973. In 2003, Love Devotion Surrender was released on CD with alternative versions as bonus tracks.
Both men were recent disciples of the guru Sri Chinmoy, and the title of the album echoes basic concepts of Chinmoy's philosophy, which focused on "love, devotion and surrender." The album was created as a tribute to jazz pioneer John Coltrane and contains two Coltrane compositions, besides two McLaughlin songs and a traditional arranged by Santana and McLaughlin. Sri Chinmoy himself spoke about the album and the concept of surrender:
Both men had recently become followers of Sri Chinmoy, and for both the album came at a transitional moment spiritually and musically, and Love Devotion Surrender was a "very public pursuit of their spiritual selves." Carlos Santana was moving from blues toward jazz and fusion, experiencing a "spiritual awakening," while McLaughlin was about to experience the break-up of the Mahavishnu Orchestra after being criticized by other band members. Santana had been a fan of McLaughlin, and McLaughlin had introduced Santana to Sri Chinmoy in 1971, at which time the guru bestowed the name "Devadip" on him, and the two had started playing and recording together in 1972. According to his biographer Marc Shapiro, Santana had much to learn from McLaughlin: "He would sit for hours, enthralled at the new ways to play that McLaughlin was teaching him," and his new spirituality had its effect on the music: "the feeling was that Carlos's newfound faith was present in every groove."
The first track, "A Love Supreme," is a version of the Coltrane composition "Acknowledgement" from the 1964 landmark album A Love Supreme. It features McLaughlin and Santana, both playing electric guitar, in an extended, improvised trading of bars. For the most part, Santana is panned to the left channel and McLaughlin to the right. As with the original, toward the end a chant of "A love supreme" is heard. (Only Armando Peraza is credited as a singer.) "Naima" is another Coltrane composition, played on acoustic guitar. First appearing in 1959 on Coltrane's Giant Steps, it is a gentle song played in a straightforward manner. "The Life Divine" again returns to Coltrane's A Love Supreme, opening with the chanted phrase "the love divine"--which one writer referred to as "bovine chanting." The song's first part is extensive, high-tempo improvisation by Santana, alternating between quick phrases and long, sustained notes (including one that runs from 3:30 to 4:03). Midway through the song and introduced by the "life divine" chant, McLaughlin takes over with mostly high-speed staccato bursts and riffs. The chant returns, incorporating "it's yours and mine," and Larry Young's organ, with percussion, provide the outro. "Let us Go Into the House of the Lord," an almost sixteen-minute long set of improvisations on "a long sequence of chords" is credited as "traditional," but Bob Palmer, writing in Rolling Stone, thinks the arrangement close enough to Lonnie Liston Smith's "to be described as a cop." The final track, "Meditation," is a "pretty but light McLaughlin composition" on which McLaughlin plays piano and Santana the acoustic guitar.
Criticism of the compositions and their execution is varied. Besides the noted suspicion that "Let us Go" is more or less plagiarized, Bob Palmer referred to the "superficial treatments" of Coltrane material, while McLaughlin biographer criticizes such elements as a "plink-plonk conga-heavy foursquare vamp all too typical of Santana" in "A Love Supreme." Thom Jurek is much more positive, praising, for instance, "The Life Divine" as "insanely knotty yet intervallically transcendent."
Fans of Santana were, apparently, disappointed; according to Thom Jurek, Love Devotion Surrender was a "hopelessly misunderstood record in its time by Santana fans," though Marc Shapiro's biography of Santana suggests otherwise."Carlos was thrilled when feedback indicated this his old Santana fans were finding much to like in the music as well." Even Paul Stump, author of Go Ahead John, a McLaughlin biography, is outright negative about the album's execution and direction, saying it was, "in retrospect, a spiritually-hobbled album," alternately criticizing Santana's tone and McLaughlin's "technophiliac tendencies" and "electronic gimmickry."
Thom Jurek, reviewing the album for Allmusic, praises the album highly: "After three decades, Love Devotion Surrender still sounds completely radical and stunningly, movingly beautiful." Robert Palmer, writing for Rolling Stone, is ambivalent about the album, calling it "loud and insistent...depend on monochord drones and simple modes for its structure and on sheer screaming force for much of its effect." He thinks more highly of Carlos Santana's playing than of McLaughlin's, which he suggests lacks feeling and relies on technicality: "Here, at his most inspired, McLaughlin is exhilarating if a bit monolithic." Later, in a positive review of Santana's Welcome (1974), Palmer said the album "was simply a series of ecstatic jams on Coltrane and Coltrane-influenced material."
Interestingly, many reviewers especially praise organist Larry Young. Thom Jurek says Young is the gel that holds the two very different guitar players together; Robert Palmer says "that the sensitive organ solos on Love Devotion Surrender were the best things on that album." Paul Stump, in Go Ahead John, makes similar remarks: "Young's organ playing here , incidentally, with its overlapping flurries of triplets, is a moment of pure genius, worthy of mention in its own right, a musical equivalent of a swarm of surreally coloured butterflies."
In 2001, Bill Laswell, responsible for remixes of albums by Bob Marley and Miles Davis, mixed and remixed excerpts of Santana's Illuminations and Love Devotion Surrender, on an album called Divine Light.
*Mahavishnu John McLaughlin - guitar, piano
*Carlos Santana - guitar
*Doug Rauch - bass guitar
*Mahalakshami Eve McLaughlin - piano
*Khalid Yasin - piano, organ
*Mingo Lewis - piano, keyboards
*Billy Cobham - drums, percussion
*Don Alias - drums, percussion
*Jan Hammer - drums, percussion
*Mike Shrieve - drums, percussion
*Armando Peraza - congas, percussion, vocals
*Mahavishnu John McLaughlin - producer
*Carlos Santana - producer
*Glen Kolotkin - engineer
*Ashok - album design & cover photo
*Pranavananda - photography
*Sri Chinmoy - essay
Category:Santana (band) albums
Category:Mahavishnu Orchestra albums
Category:Albums produced by Carlos Santana
Category:Columbia Records albums
Category:Tributes to John Coltrane
Category:Carlos Santana albums
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