Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Al Di Meola Elegant Gypsy (1977)


Jazz fusion is one of the many, many music gifts that Sputnik has bestowed upon me over the past few years. In that time, I’ve heard a myriad of bands and genres that have had an impact on me and the way I view music and those that create it.

Perhaps more than any other type of music, jazz fusion has redefined my perception of everything that I’ve listened to up to this point. The album that started this reverence, you ask? Well, that would be guitar extraordinaire Al DiMeola’s 1977 masterpiece, Elegant Gypsy.

What truly shines on this record is the varied, textured soundscapes presented with each track. There is an eclectic cohesion of styles at hand. The jaw-dropping flamenco acoustic guitar on ‘Mediterranean Sundance’ gives off an iridescent aura, one of a Greek coastal city basking in the sparse, pastel-purple light of the early evening.

On the other hand, the opening bass line to the album’s lead track ‘Flight Over Rio’ could easily have been snaked into a Tool song, its dark effect pulsating through a chaparral scene of sound.

The instrumentation, as with many other jazz fusion groups, is nothing short of phenomenally top-notch. The shredding, abrasive guitar slithering through the album’s best track and centerpiece ‘Race With Devil on Spanish Highway’ never misses a beat, never falters for a second. An interlude of faultless guitar and drum synching segues into a beautiful bass-driven groove as Al works exquisite magic with his instrument, for this track feature some of the best guitar tones you’re likely to find in any variety of music.

The entire rhythm section on ‘Midnight Tango’ are as prevalent as they are anonymous, perfectly complimenting one another, as well as with regards to DiMeola’s wildly cascading guitar lead. Beauty unmatched abounds to no limit on the short but oh-so-sweet song ‘Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil.’

The dueling acoustic guitars lull one with the strength of a child’s nursery rhyme, ultimately progressing into a relaxed, almost jam-like quality. The ambience given off by those guitars is unbelievable, as if the entire ensemble is present.

Another aspect of the album that I find pleasing is that no instrument overshadows another. Even with the production of the album, no singular player seems to be mixed louder or more prevalent than any other. An excellent example would be the final track, ‘Elegant Gypsy Suite,’ an uninhibited jam, a melting pot of numerous playing styles and genres stewed into quite the musical experience. The sound that is produced during this track is unique, with DiMeola throwing in some fabulous lead lines, alternating in speed to fit the ever-changing tempo and feel of the song. The track culminates in a final, spastic burst of sound. Somehow dissonant, this is a fitting end to an incredible album.

I, in all objective honesty, have absolutely no complaint regarding this album, music- or instrumentation-wise. Every single track is a glorious example of not only musical ability, but the knowledge of how music meshes with itself and different styles. To be quite honest, I was a little apprehensive at the fusion of my two favorite genres, rock and jazz.

Elegant Gypsy has shown me, and I hope it shows you, that it is possible to create something moving, powerful, and seminal with two vastly different elements. All that is needed is the willingness and confidence to do so. Look at what has come out of it!

March 6, 2013 - Posted by | Al Di Meola Elegant Gypsy |

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