This well known Santana sleeve shows how art and music can sometimes come together even though both were created independently.
The cover illustration was by German born (in 1932) artist Mati Klarwein. Mati studied and lived in Paris, then moved to America in 1967 (though he travelled widely) before relocating to Spain in 1983 where he lived until his death in 2002. Mati’s work output was prolific and of a very high quality and is represented in a number of major galleries. The painting is titled Annunication, and was executed in 1961 after an early trip to New York.
The work was reproduced in a magazine which is where Carlos Santana first saw it. “It was the congas between the angel’s legs and the colors. I’d just discovered that music and color are food for the soul. When we looked at the painting, we said, ‘Man, this is a great feast! Who did this?'”. They asked for permission to use it on an album sleeve, the cover to Abraxas (the band’s second LP), in 1970. Santana visited Mati’s studio to check the original out, though never got to meet the artist who was out of the country at the time. It’s a measure of how album sleeves had developed that Santana was able to use what would have been seen as quite a provocative image in some quarters. It’s also a real meeting of art and music, and most people are surprised to learn that the painting was not specially done for the LP.
The original American Abraxas sleeve was a gatefold allowing the full painting to be appreciated. Inside was a live colour photograph (by Marian Schmidt). My copy is a British one, just a single sleeve. Neither really did the original painting justice, as the work appeared rather washed out (the scan below is much closer to the real thing), and this is certainly an album which would benefit from a vinyl reissue which went back to the source painting.
The cover brought Mati a lot of recognition (though few are aware his self portrait appears towards the left side of the painting, in the straw hat!), and he was commissioned to do a painting for the cover of the Miles Davis album Bitches Brew in 1970.
We shouldn’t forget the original album logo, which clearly references the San Fancisco poster school, and was designed by Robert Venosa (who was also an accomplished painter and had actually studied under Mati Klarwein – I wonder if he suggested to Santana that they check Mati’s work out?)
So what is the lookalike here you may ask? Well back in the seventies, when albums were relatively expensive, there was a boom in cover versions. Mostly these were collections of chart hits, but single artist cover albums were also done. And this is just that, an album of Santana tracks covered by a studio band christened The Amazonas, in reality guitarist Zed Jenkins and friends (Zed played steel guitar on the first Gerry Rafferty album in 1972).
It is quite unusual for a budget album, in this case Stereo Gold Award (though licensed from Damil Productions in America) to go to such trouble over the sleeve, which itself is a sort of tribute to the work of Mati, albeit it done on the cheap by cutting images from magazines and books and making a montage of them! The black woman from the original painting is replaced by a nude photograph, and the end result is credited to Mick Wells. It was issued in 1973, and covers tracks from across Santanas albums.
The two paintings are reproduced to comply with the conditions on the official Mati Klarwein web site (see the links page).