Well what all else can be said that has not already been said about Al Di Meola? The man is hands down the greatest Guitarist to ever live and he is a 1,000 times better than Jimi Hendrix. So the next time you hear that Hendrix is the greatest guitarist of all time, they either do not know what they are talking about or are lying to you. Speaking of which in my personal opinion people were too messed up on drugs back then and that is my theory of why Hendrix and The Grateful Dead are so overrated to name a few. Until proven otherwise Al Di Meola is the most devastating guitarist in the whole world. No one is better. No one!
Now as for the cd, here we have one of the best instrumental solo albums ever released in Di Meola’s musical career. This album is a masterpiece and is clearly a jem. Al’s mind boggling guitar picking, finger tapping, and musical fusions are all here. Just sit back and listen to the Teacher show you a thing or two about how to play the guitar.
1. Egyptian Danza:
This first song has a very exotic melody as per the title. Beautifully genius guitar licks and riffs that showcase Al Di Meola at his finger picking/finger licking good. Most guitarists will wish they could only play half as good as he does on this song. Like to point out how Mr. Di Meola always has a lot of depth, emotion, and soul in his songs. This song proves how this guitarist can make his guitar go through all types of various musical mood changes. And to think there was a time that people claimed he had no soul in his early playing days.
2. Chasin’ The Voodoo:
This song is really good especially the drumming, beats, loops, and synthesizers that enhance the guitar playing. The main riff is just awesome! One thing like to point out about Al Di Meola that differentiates him from the rest of the pack is that he makes albums that are not just great guitar chop records, but rather albums that are musical records. Artists should always make sure to surround themselves with other talented people to enhance the vibe of their recordings. Too many instrumentals albums have great guitars, but not enough of the other parts. In essence most solo/instrumental albums are not as good as they could of or should have been. Remember Di Meola’s albums are not just great guitar chop records, they are great musical records. So expect a lot of fusions of various genres in his songs.
3. Dark Eye Tango:
On this one the mood is slowed down to give the album a shift from a progressive fast pace from the previous songs to a smoothing, relaxing, and very romantic vibe. While this is a slower ballad type of song, it is still good, with a hooking upbeat. I.E. you will not fall asleep and you will not want to skip this song.
4. Senor Mouse:
Here we have a song with a lot of Latin flavour. This song has a vibe along the lines of a Santana type of song with Latin dance vibes, some flamenco, and other genres as well thrown in the mix. This song is not a very fast song, but it not a slow one either and is just another example of how this man loves to take his music to the next level by mixing things up and avoiding the musical norm.
5. Fantasia Suite For Two Guitars
a. Viva La Danzarina
b. Guitars of The Exotic Isle
c. Rhapsody Italia
d. Bravoto Fantasia
Well here we have a “Suite” themed song that is divided in to 4 parts. Part A has a beautiful intro guitar lick that resembles some of the licks that Eddie Van Halen did in the early days with the acoustic guitar. I wonder if Al Di Meola or this album influenced him in those songs. Then the song shift to some exotic classical licks reminiscent of something the locals in Hawaii would play. Next shift in the song goes to some classical old Italian guitar techniques that may seem out of place in this up-tempo song, yet still fit. The final part of the song changes back to the similar moods of the way the song began with the acoustic guitar licks that sound very up-tempo with a flamenco/bolero guitar styles that are flying all over the place. This song is just vintage Di Meola.
Finally, the title cut. Al Di Meola saves the best for last. A song that has a lot of texture, progression, melody, and of course fusion which is signifies the skills of the guitarist godly talent. The vintage Di Meola-esque guitar shredding is here (Di Meola always had a knack of being able to play super fast while keeping his sound super clean) and as expected the sound is very unique. The song is very progressive with lots of notes coming at you from all directions.
Well there you go. Al Di Meola is Guitar God and will go down with the best of them. Like to point out that this cd also helped put socks in the mouths of his early critics that claimed he did not have his own signature style….did they ever take into consideration how young he was back then in reference to his musical career? Well no one these doubts Al’s guitar playing and this cd set the stage for his brilliant solo career that kept evolving.
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.