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Columbia, 1970
Designer: Mati Klarwein

hen 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. To this day, Santana and Klarwein have not met or even spoken.

What attracted Santana to the work? "It was the congas between the angel's legs and the colors," he says. "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?'"

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 a girlfriend of Klarwein's from Guadeloupe. Klarwein painted himself, wearing a straw hat, in the role of Joseph. 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."

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