Review The Hendrix of Jazz. This is what I have heard people call Al Di Meola. I never had to question why especially after hearing this album. I can name a ton of guitar players with great albums but I would prefer to listen to this album over all of those any second of any day.
This is coming from somebody who loves only sophisticated guitar work and cant stand any of that 4 chord crap that passes off for music today. I’m a huge fan of John Mclaughlin, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Page, Richie Blackmore, Rick Emmett, George Benson, Alex Lifeson, Buddy Guy, David Gilmour, Robert Fripp, an many others. But none of those dudes can brag about having a guitar album like this one from Al Di Meola.
“Flight to Rio” Is just as important a track for Jan Hammer as for Al di Meola. Hammers contributions to this album are quite big but on this track his contributions are nothing short of enormous and help set the mood for the album.
“Midnight Tango” continues the electric Latino guitar style of track 1 before the album turns a bit more acoustic.
“Mediterranean Sundance” is an acoustic Latin Fusion number where Paco de Lucia comes in and plays twin lead with Al di Meola. This is one of those tracks that blew me away the most the first time I heard it. Years before they would both join with Mahavishnu John McLaughlin to record one of the most awesome acoustic records ever.
“Race with Devil on Spanish Highway” is an incredibly intense going back to electric driven track with di Meolas band mate Lenny White wrecking some serious havoc on drums. Absolutely an underrated and gifted drummer. Anthony Jackson, a bass player I have not heard much of really blasts his bass guitar on this one causing me to want to research more albums he might play on.
“Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil” despite being really short is the most beautiful track on the album.
“Elegant Gypsy Suite” is the highlight and the reason why the album had to be named after the title track! This is the only way a great album should end. One of the greatest guitar showcases of all time.
This is it! The ultimate guitar album. I cant say why in words it just is. And it took only one listen to believe it. You wont understand until you listen to it also like I was recommended to. Than you will believe!!!
Review I’m quite new to Al Di Meola, but I’m a seasoned instrumental guitar fan. I had read on Wikipedia that Petrucci was self taught by trying to emulate the sounds of various guitarists like Malmsteen, Holdsworth and Di Meola. I figured, Holdsworth and Malmsteen are pretty big names, so to throw Di Meola in must mean something, because Petrucci after all is… well, we all know what he is capable of. I looked on Amazon.com for Di Meola albums, and Elegant Gypsy looked to the best, based solely on reviews, so I checked it out.
This CD is so incredibly monstrous, that words have a hard describing all the features it encapsulates. Di Meolas finely honed technical ability coupled with interesting tunes and beats make for a superb album. I find that this album sounds quite unlike any other instrumental guitar CD I have ever heard.
This CD was unleashed in 1976, before massively technical playing was popularized by Yngwie. This is one of the reasons I find Di Meola so special. I have never been more impressed with a 30 year old album that sounds like it could have been released just yesterday. It doesn’t have the outdated 80’s sound that neoclassical shred has picked up.
Im not sure whether to call Di Meola a shred guitarist, I don’t really think he is. He obviously has the ability to shred with the best of them, but he tames it and keeps it under control (Yes, that’s a good thing).
Now for the actual songs on the album. There are two that really stand out in my mind. Like everybody else, Race with Devil on Spanish Highway, is a superb demonstration of Di Meola’s primo technical astuteness coupled with some awe-inspiring song writing. The song just sounds really good, any way you look at it.
The other song which I am also very fond of is Mediterranean Sundance. It gives me goose bumps. It showcases the full spectrum of what the acoustic is capable of. Especially since there are two of them, the song is like a double whammy. Supposedly it’s Di Meola on the right channel, and Paco de Lucia on the left, that play together with such harmony and beauty, the song is not easily overlooked.
These are the two songs that stand out in my mind, but it is not to say that the other songs not equally as impressive, because they are.
This CD is very unique, and I’m happy I picked it up. Now I understand why Petrucci threw Di Meola in that sentence.
For ‘Elegant Gypsy,’ Di Meola carries a similar line-up over from his first album and produces a more consistent record. While it follows a similar pattern in structure and sequencing, it’s more satisfying overall.
If the songs are much the same texture-wise, using percussion, a tight rhythm section and speed-driven guitar work, along with often atmospheric keys – it’s no surprise that he choose to refine the successful sound from ‘Land of the Midnight Sun.’
After the steady opening of ‘Flight Over Rio’ with its nice tempo shift in the middle, we have the more contemplative ‘Midnight Tango’ which is probably the highlight of the album. Smooth but still surprising, it’s graced with evocative solos from both guitar and piano, and seems to be a step forward in arrangement for Di Meola. Here he gives the song a lot of space, choosing his moments on electric guitar carefully, while also incorporating more acoustic playing.
‘Mediterranean Sundance’ continues the acoustic theme – in the form of a duet between flamenco legend Paco de Lucía and Di Meola. It’s stunning (and I do have a soft spot for flamenco guitar) perhaps not simply for their dazzling fretwork but the way it so effortlessly brings Spanish imagery to mind, it’s one of those pieces (a little like ‘Lady of Rome…’) that transports your mind. While it would be revisited and expanded years later on Friday Night in San Francisco, this version is still wonderful.
Following the duet is ‘Race With Devil on Spanish Highway’ a menacing track that features drummer Lenny White’s second fine performance on the album, and one that again displays the speed we’ve come to expect from Di Meola by now.
‘Elegant Gypsy Suite’ is a little more of a mid-tempo piece and a satisfying conclusion to the album, its bass and key sound hinting at material that would be covered on Meola’s follow up ‘Casino.’
Another fantastic album of Latin Jazz fusion, four stars.
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!