Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Al Di Meola Land Of The Midnight Sun (1976)


This is a good (1976) debut by electric/acoustic guitar virtuoso Al Di Meola, who originally came to my attention through his work with jazz rock outfit Return to Forever. Al is truly a musician’s musician, which is why my orchestra/jazz band cronies and I would pore over every note of this album in high school.

The lineup on Land of the Midnight Sun (1976) brought together some of the finest musicians in the jazz rock realm and Al (6 and 12 string acoustic guitars, electric guitar, synthesizer, and percussion) is joined by several electric bass guitarists: Anthony Jackson (1, 2), Jaco Pastorius (5), Stanley Clarke (4); and drummers: Steve Gadd (1), Lenny White (2), and Alphonse Mouzon (5). Rounding out the core lineup are keyboardists Chick Corea (6) and Barry Miles (2, 5); percussionist Mingo Lewis (1, 2, 4, and 5); and female vocalist Patty Buyukas (4).

I think it goes without saying that these folks are all first chair performers and the playing is simply jaw-dropping. Al in particular dazzles throughout with his rapid fire scalar runs on both the acoustic and electric guitars. He also demonstrates that he is reasonably adept at composition/arrangement too, including some of the longer jazz rock/prog pieces such as Land of the Midnight Sun, Suite-Golden Dawn, and the delicate, shorter piece Love Theme from “Pictures of the Sea”.

At the heart of this album are three riff-heavy tracks that boast warp-speed ensemble playing and impossibly difficult time signatures – The Wizard, Land of the Midnight Sun, and Suite – Golden Dawn. Fortunately however, the album is also fairly diverse and ranges from the three, highly electric jazz rock/progressive rock rave-ups to a pleasantly subdued adaptation of a Bach piece played on acoustic guitar. Other quiet pieces include the duet between Chick Corea (acoustic piano) and Al (acoustic 6 and 12 string guitar) on Short Tales of the Black Forest.

Additional splashes of variety in timbre/texture include the Latin-flavoured percussion playing of Mingo Lewis; the combination of the female vocalist and Stanley Clarke’s vocals on “Pictures of the Sea”; and the breathtaking interplay between the mind-blowing and intricate (yet funky) bass lines of Jaco Pastorius and Al’s precise, staccato bursts of notes on the electric guitar (Suite – Golden Dawn). Unfortunately (for this keyboard lover), the use of keyboards on the album is somewhat subdued – Al may have wanted to focus on more a guitar-based sound, although the few instances of electric piano and synthesizer use are impressive, as is the acoustic piano playing of Chick Corea.

Although this album has not been remastered, the sound quality is actually fairly good. The liner notes are very skimpy however.

All in all, this is a good album of proggy jazz rock with enough spice and variety that it kept my interest throughout. Land of the Midnight Sun is recommended along with the excellent follow-up album Elegant Gypsy (1977) to those fans of both progressive rock and jazz rock.

April 7, 2013 - Posted by | Al Di Meola Land Of The Midnight Sun |

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