Maria’s staff pick: “The Universal Tone,” by Carlos Santana

by Roger Cottingham

The Universal Tone, by Carlos Santana

It seems that these days, everyone’s favorite artist or band from the ’60s through the ’90s has a biography out. Patti Smith, John Fogarty, Keith Richards – lots of well-written bios. Another Neil Young and several Grateful Dead books are now out and available to music-loving readers. Who doesn’t want to read about the artists they listened to growing up?

The Universal Tone, by Carlos Santana hits all the buttons that any Santana fan would want, from growing up in Tijuana and learning to play music, to forming Santana and the evolution of the band and its music, it’s all there. Santana being a very spiritual person, it also covers his spiritual journey. As a life-long Santana fan, I loved reading about a man whose music was a cornerstone of my own personal music listening evolution – but that’s not the best part of this book.

The secret treat of Universal Tone is the music itself. Santana lets us in on the musical development of the 1960s through today. Reading about how the soon-to-be-great guitar players of the time looked at B.B. King’s “Live at the Regal” album as a kind of “holy grail” of how to play guitar live; or how Prince thanked Santana for making it possible for him to play guitar solos on his songs that received radio airplay gives a glimpse of the bedrock of the music we listen to past and present. There are numerous insights shared about various music and its influences that are fun to discover and even more fun to apply to whatever your listening tastes run to.

If you love music, this book is a must read. The Santana story is worth the price of the book. The knowledge imparted to the reader about the music is priceless.

— Roger Cottingham


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