Classic Rock Review

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Al Di Meola Splendido Hotel (1980)


A lot has been said about Al Di Meola and his music outside of Return To Forever. Overall he tends to be viewed as a musician of extremes. He either embodies what are viewed as fusion’s best or most unflattering qualities. And there’s a lot of truth on both ends. He is a master musician with an ability and playing dexterity, from mild to wild that you could believe. On the other hand his music could be overly technical and sometimes presented him more as a musicians musician than anyone out to entertain or be intensely creative.

Debates aside he entered the 80’s at a time where even in fusion poppier, more compressed musical sounds such as the type Bob James and Quincy Jones were starting to pioneer became the acceptable standard. The question was would Di Meola, one of the purveyors of the most pyrotechnical variety of fusion be able to adapt to the change. Actually he did an excellent job and delivered one of the strongest albums of his career.

This albums eleven songs find Di Meola moving through a series of songs in many different styles, mostly showcasing his more flamenco style of guitar playing as opposed to the rockier variety and, by and large avoiding anything too melodramatic. “Alien Chase On The Arabian Desert”, “Dinner Music Of The Gods” and the slower “Isfahan”, all between 8 and 11 minutes a piece all have a strong late 70’s/early 80’s latin rock flavour similar to the kind of music you’d find on Santana’s Marathon or Zebop from the same era.

“Two Ta Tango” and “Splendido Sundance” both almost qualify as solo numbers, the former built largely on rhythmic plucking and the latter more on a fast paced flamenco based melody. “Al Di’s Dream Theme” is an elaborate three section tune-starting out more in a jazz-funk vein and into more latin fusion and back to a latin rock style again it could be described as a mini suite, of sorts. “Silent Story In Her Eyes” and “Spanish Eyes” both have kind of a latin jazz-funk shuffle to them as are considerably more crafted than the loose instrumental oriented sound of Di Meola’s earlier music.

Two songs on the album may not satisfy some people but are right up my alley. “Roller Jubilee” and “I Can Tell” both fall more into the jazz/funk vein with the first of these songs have a slight latin style disco flavour (especially in Anthony Jackson’s bass lines” and the later featuring a Michael McDonald-like keyboard melodic line and Al himself singing the lyrics. Much the same as with Larry Carlton and other guitarists in this genre who’ve attempted vocals it will likely never be counted as one of Di Meola’s strongest talents.

But despite what I hear on this he actually survives it without utterly embarrassing himself the way people like Stanley Clarke sometimes have when they first tried to sing. The album ends with “Bianca’s Midnight Lullaby”, another flamenco type number with musical references from all over the Mediterranean region-from Italy to Greece. So this album manages to be a clever combination between melodic jazz-funk/fusion and early world fusion sounds. In a way it bridges the sounds of jazz fusion from one decade to another and therefore has a strong influence on what other musicians in the genre would do for the coming decade.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Al Di Meola Splendido Hotel | | Leave a comment