Classic Rock Review

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Al Di Meola Casino (1978)


Smooth, traditional, suave, passionate, exotic… These are just a few words that could sum up the guitar playing of renowned jazz guitarist Al Di Meola. Working with the likes of jazz fusion band Return to Forever made him a name stay in the jazz guitarist community and with his release of “Elegant Gypsy” he was solidified as one of the more talented acts of the 70s.

“Casino” would take the likes of his previous works and expand a bit more on his style and flair and venture off into the slots of creativity. So lets take a walk through the casino and I’ll place bets right now your sure to dig this album.

Kicking off the album with “Egyptian Danza,” Di Meola creates a very strange organ-driven atmosphere that sort of spooks you out upon first listen. As the track races on you are jolted from one odd time signature to the next. This creates a bit of tension in the listener as they have no idea what is to come.

The spooky Egyptian-like movement continues and calms a bit. What you’ll notice immediately is the entrancing nature of the song. It acts like a siren of sorts tempting you to come closer only to slap you right in the face with a fretboard attack. The creepy atmosphere to the song continues as you are dragged around the barren desert sands searching for the next song to quench that Di Meola thirst…

“Chasin’ The Voodoo” creates another strange atmosphere, opening with tribal like beats on the bongos. Soon enough, a menacing guitar lick comes in and pounding drums create a sense of insecurity. The tone of this song is really worth listening to. He mixes in a lot of the ambient background pianos/organs, and drums with some neat effects that just add so much to the overall sound. This track makes me feel really uneasy for some reason but I can’t stop listening. This really showcases Di Meolas technique as well.

With the next track “Dark Eye Tango,” you’ll immediately notice a more smooth side of Di Meolas playing style reminiscent of his future albums like “Soaring Through a Dream.” The use of inconsistency continues as you are greeted with an increase in tempos and distortion. The chimes at the beginning really set the mood for the whole piece. One thing you’ll notice is that a common theme that I always feel is in his style is that it can be enjoyed in so many different ways. With this number, you could just as easily layout and sit out in the sun just as well as you could grab your significant other and dance in the moonlight. Just a real treat that makes this music pretty special.

With “Senor Mouse” Di Meola shows an odd side to his sound. The drum and bass is pretty unique and the guitar playing is a lot more experimental when compared to the previous tracks. It takes on a bit of a more psychedelic approach reminiscent of his earlier works with Return to Forever. Even with the semi-trippy-ness to the piece, he still makes it easily intoxicating with the suave nature of guitar work. As with other tracks, it slowly begins to build and just when you think the the climax will rear its head- it doesn’t.

You are then swept off your feet by one of the stronger songs on the album “Fantasia Suite.” This song just completely takes you places. The fast plucking at the beginning is a superb start and the addition of the percussion is just incredible. With this piece, Di Meola steps away from the electric guitar and takes you away with a classical guitar piece.

It’s jaw-dropping to say the least and shows you that his fingers can work just as fast and effectively as his pick. What really stands out is the strong percussion on the bongos. Towards the middle of the song Di Meola switches off to acoustic and engulfs the listener with an array of exotic jazzy chords and fast shred-like licks. This is such a powerful part of not only the song but the whole album and really showcases how much of a talent he really is. Definitely worth a checkout.

The lights are shining and the twinkle in your eyes bring about a sense of intrigue as you get ready for the last song of the album. “Casino” closes the album with such a cool swagger. From the opening percussion and weird effects to the various movements throughout, you are taken away into a scene of high-dealing and glitzy slot machines. This piece is a more relaxing way to end the album and when you think about where this album has started and ended you’ll feel like Di Meola just did a complete 360. The last minute or two of this song is some of the strongest points of this album as the drums match much of his notes picked. It’s a real treat to listen to.

“Casino” definitely shows a different side of Di Meola in terms of experimentation. “Elegant Gypsy” felt like more of a raw album whereas this one is a little more refined and somewhat easier to listen to. It really is a musical adventure and an enjoyable listen. With “Casino” Di Meola shows us that he is a multi-faceted artist and likes playing around with the listener by shifting and fluctuating each piece in such a way you can feel like doing so many things at once.

If I had to place a bet on this album, I’d certainly go all-in.

March 6, 2013 - Posted by | Al Di Meola Casino |

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