Fronted by the duo of Azuzena and Leonor Marchesi, Spanish band Santa released a trio of albums ranging from Heavy Metal to AOR during the mid-1980s.
Written by: DaveT
Leonor Marchesi (L) & Azuzena (R)
The story of Santa began in 1983 when Fernando Sánchez and Juan Luis Serrano, drums and bass for Spanish hard rock band Obús respectively, approached Azuzena (full name Azucena Martín-Dorado Calvo), then frontwoman of Huracán, to start a new band.
Ñu guitarist Jero Ramiro was summoned to complete the lineup and the foursome recorded a two-song demo under the Viuda Negra moniker with the tracks ‘Salvaje Y Cruel’ and ‘Mis Noches Tienen Rock & Roll’, both written by the Obús guys, the latter rerecorded for Santa’s full-length debut.
Serrano and Sánchez left the project and were substituted by Julio Díaz on bass and Bernardo Ballester (also in Ñu) on drums. Santa had been born. The lineup of Azuzena, Ramiro, Díaz and Ballester recorded Reencarnación during the first half of 1984.
Chapa Discos, ZL-614
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
On their debut, Santa comes off in full Metal fashion displaying pacy, heavy songs the likes of the opening title track and ‘Al Lado Del Diablo’. Accept are clearly an influence on the instrumentation while Azuzena’s aggressive, mighty pipes bear comparison to Chastain‘s Leather Leone. Ballester’s drumming is relentless, in particular the double bass kick. Production values are modest, yet effective.
The Euro Metal sound shapes ‘Fuera En La Calle’, ‘Cuestión De Honor’ and ‘Desertor’. The traditional heavy rock of the pulsating ‘Héroe De Papel’ whose lyrics address the loneliness of a comics fanatic, the boogie-oriented ‘Mis Noches Tienen Rock & Roll’, plus the titular song, became the most well-known tracks here.
The eponymous guitar instrumental ‘Santa’ is the perfect excuse for Jero Ramiro to show his skills as well as Gary Moore‘s influences. Santa’s debut ends on a high note with the compelling power ballad ‘Sobrevivir’ in which Azuzena’s performance is nothing short of moving as she describes the feelings of those who resume everyday life after being released from prison.
1985 No Hay Piedad Para Los Condenados
Chapa Discos, ZL-634
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
For their sophomore, Santa diverted into Deep Purple territory and AOR. The addition of keyboard player Miguel Angel Collado brought in vintage Hammond organ passages. Bassist Julio Díaz left Santa to join Sangre Azul and was replaced by Diego Jiménez.
Produced by Carlos de Castro of Baron Rojo fame, the songwriting and arrangements became more refined and polished as Azuzena’s performance did as well. It’s interesting to hear the frequent counterpoint between the female vocals and the male falsetto backing vocals.
Rocking numbers ‘Todo Mi Honor’ with its surprising opening arpeggios a la ‘Hotel California’ and guitar/organ interplay, ‘No Hay Piedad Para Los Condenados’ and the Purple on steroids delivery of ‘Arma Mortal’ coexist with AOR-tinged tracks the likes of the Foreigner-flavored ‘No Eres Suficiente’, the engaging ‘Sin Compasión’, ‘Sólo Eres Tú’ with hints at Gary Moore, the almost pop ballad ‘D’Astaire Club’ and ‘Levántate’, plus a couple of interludes.
Just like the debut, a power ballad rounds off the album. ‘Huérfanos De La Tormenta’ is Santa’s tribute to the unsung rock heroes that did not make it to the top with a hair-raising Azuzena’s performance.
Chapa Discos, ZL-662
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
The new melodic direction supported by Ramiro, internal struggle between the guitarist and Azuzena plus the fact that the sophomore did not remotely sell as the debut had done, led to the latter leaving the band.
Santa recruited Argentine frontwoman Leonor Marchesi (other surname Demarco), who had released two albums with the progressive hard rock band Púrpura (the self-titled and ‘Púrpura II’ in 1983 and 1984, respectively).
Marchesi is an elegant, more technical vocalist with lyrical singing training and fairly different personality-wise from Azuzena. A good comparison around this time would be fellow countrywoman Patricia Sosa (La Torre).
The influences drifted towards Yngwie Malmsteen‘s Marching Out period and Joe Lynn Turner’s fronted Rainbow. Collado incorporated synths to his organ arsenal.
Although recorded at the then famous Ibiza Mediterranean Studios, the overall sound is slightly dry. Marchesi’s delivery is superb, pure class. The album begins with the uptempo, stabby keys packed ‘Ven Hasta Mí’ followed by the Foreigner-like ballad ‘Un Minuto Más’.
Then it takes a U-turn into the epic title track (a sibling to ‘I’ll See the Light, Tonight’), the rapid-fire ‘Fuego En El Alma’ and the intense ‘Morgana’ filled with stop-go parping keys. The AOR quotient is high through the towering chugging ‘Por La Espalda’, the slightly progressive ‘Detrás De Tus Pecados’, the lively ‘Corazón Loco’, the highly melodic ‘No Sabes Como Sufrí’ and the parps a la Europe on ‘Dama De Noche’.
With each release reaching lower album sales than its predecessor, Santa called it quits in 1987; leaving behind tours with Baron Rojo, Obús and Angeles Del Infierno but, most important, a strong discography.
To such extent that, in spite of being unmistakably different from each other, I rate their three albums similarly and I find strong, enjoyable yet unique features in each one of them. All have been reissued on CD back in 2002.
Unfortunately, Azuzena passed away in early 2005 at 49 after releasing a couple of solo albums. Jero Ramiro went on to bigger recognition with Saratoga while Leonor Marchesi started a career that includes two solo releases, the symphonic project Onliryca, 2019’s EP AlterBlu and countless collaborations.
Reencarnación (from ‘Reencarnación’)
Héroe De Papel (from ‘Reencarnación’)
Al Lado Del Diablo (from ‘Reencarnación’)
No Eres Suficiente (from ‘No Hay Piedad Para Los Condenados’)
Huérfanos De La Tormenta (from ‘No Hay Piedad Para Los Condenados’)
Ven Hasta Mí (from ‘Templario’)
Templario (from ‘Templario’)
Por La Espalda (from ‘Templario’)
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?
[Gdazegod] Very interesting history. I like the way the band transitioned their sound according to the trends of the day. Many bands did it.
This format has given me some ideas to write something similar, mainly about Canadian bands, especially those we haven’t written about yet. Watch this space.
[DaveT] Santa are a band to discover for those looking for something different with quality within 80s music. Truly unique even for the Spanish scene back then. The full discographies format has many possibilities, I agree. One band I plan on reviewing here is Mike Slamer’s Steelhouse Lane.