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Classic Album covers : Abraxas – Santana

Abraxas is the second studio album by Santana, released in September, 1970

The title of the album comes from a line from Herman Hesse’s book Demian, which is 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….”

When Carlos Santana was taken over to Mati Klarwein’s studio to check out his artwork for a possible album cover, Klarwein happened to be out of the country, hanging out in Tangier with Timothy Leary. Guitarist and bandleader Santana loved one particular painting so much that he chose it to adorn Abraxas, his group’s second album, and the arrangements were made without the two ever meeting face to face. In fact, Santana and Klarwein never met

What attracted Santana to the work? “It was the congas between the angel’s legs and the colours,” he says. “I’d just discovered that music and colour are food for the soul. When we looked at the painting, we said, ‘Man, this is a great feast! Who did this?’”

Klarwein had painted the piece in 1963. He titled it The Annunciation, deriving its symbolism from the biblical story in which the archangel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will be giving birth to Jesus. The nude black Virgin Mary was Klarwein’s girlfriend Jill, who came from Guadeloupe. A trio of Nigerian nomads are the Magi. Finally, a winged, crimson Gabriel is shown descending from heaven astride a conga drum. “Drums were always used to announce something,” says Klarwein. “They were a medium of communication in Africa, and I put the angel announcing the birth by beating the drum.” As Santana notes, “It fit like a hand and glove to the music”

On the back cover, Klarwein painted himself, wearing a straw hat, in the role of Joseph

Klarwein’s has also been used on albums by Santana, Miles Davis (Bitches Brew), Buddy Miles, Jackie McLean, The Last Poets, George Duke, Earth Wind & Fire and others. Wikipedia has a full list. He also painted┬áJimi Hendrix, for a collaborative album by Hendrix and arranger Gil Evans. Unfortunately Hendrix died before it could be recorded

Mati Klarwein died in 2002 after contracting cancer, leaving behind at least 600 paintings

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  1. James M. Kilpatrick

    July 19, 2012

    This quote is not in Demian. Hesse talks about Demain an even uses some of the words but never saw this painting and Demian was written back in the twenties. This needs to be clarified as else there will be someone else out here chasing a ghost. The book with the full quote I have requested and the title is Whispers of My Blood by Mickey Mahaffey.

  2. James M. Kilpatrick

    July 19, 2012

    Are you suere; yes the quote is there; but is it about the painting or is it from the book as now I am seeking the origin of Abraxas. But this quote if this is where it is from I owe an apology. James

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