Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault: Al Di Meola – Land Of The Midnight Sun

“Land of the Midnight Sun” is the debut album by jazz fusion guitarist Al Di Meola, released in 1976. 6 songs that clock in at about 38 minutes.

Released on Columbia Records.

Di Meola was 21 when this album was released and his technical skills are very high.

Check out the front cover.

It looks like a Science teacher I had at school and you know when artists would say “you should buy an album based on the cover”, well I never would have purchased this one.

I got into Di Meola because he was getting a lot of “word of mouth” promotion from the 80’s players in the Guitar magazines. Players like Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci, Marty Friedman and Kirk Hammet all cited him as an influence to them, so it was just a matter of time and funds before I checked him out and goddamn what a revelation it was.

“The Wizard”

Its written by Mingo Lewis and I had no idea who he was until I looked at the credits and saw that he’s the percussionist. A percussionist extraordinaire in my opinion as he wrote some amazing guitar riffs here.

The musicians for this song are Al Di Meola on guitars, Anthony Jackson on bass, Steve Gadd on drums and Mingo Lewis on percussion.

I don’t know where to start with this or how to describe it, as there is a lot of great guitar playing.

The intro from 0.00 to 0.13 is enough to get me to pick up the guitar. Then it goes into a typical 70’s groove from 0.14 to 0.24 which is great and easy to play.

And then the riff comes in which I call the “piece d’resistance” riff from 0.25 to 0.55.

There is a brief heavy palm muted from 0.56 to 1.00 which reminds me of things that Maiden would do in their early years. Its only 4 seconds long here but can be easily fleshed out into something longer.

The song then goes back to the “piece d’resistance” guitar playing.

And all of these unbelievable guitar sections are within the first minute.

At 1.20 there is a variation of the “piece d’resistance” riff.

Then check out the mood and licks from 1.50 to 2.34. If that section doesn’t make you feel something, check for a pulse please.

At 5.05, the outro guitar solo starts. And just as Di Meola was starting to get warmed up with the outro solo, a decision was made to fade it out.

I’m the end, this song is a progressive rock tour de force.

“Land of the Midnight Sun”

Written by Al Di Meola, it clocks in at 9:10.

The musicians for this song are Al Di Meola on guitars, Barry Miles on keyboards, Anthony Jackson on bass guitar, Lenny White on drums and Mingo Lewis on percussion.

While the opening track came across as a progressive rock high octane cut, this one is more in the jazz rock domain with some progressive overtones.

There is this lounge rock mood which comes in between 2.02 to 3.56 and Di Meola plays some fast palm muted lines in between his normal sounding leads.

“Sarabande from Violin Sonata in B Minor”

A short 1.20 piece from Johann Sebastian Bach transposed to acoustic guitar to show off Di Meola’s prowess on an acoustic guitar.

“Love Theme from Pictures of the Sea”

Another short cut at 2:25 in length. The musicians here are Al Di Meola on guitars, Stanley Clarke on bass and vocals, Patty Buyukas on vocals and Mingo Lewis on percussion.

The clean tone arpeggios create a shimmering effect and the percussion from Mingo Lewis takes you to some island paradise.

“Suite Golden Dawn: Morning Fire/Calmer of the Tempests/From Ocean to the Clouds”

At 9.49 it fits nicely into the albums progressive rock feel. The musicians for this song are Al Di Meola on guitars, Barry Miles on keys, Jaco Pastorius on bass guitar, Alphonse Mouzon on drums and Mingo Lewis on percussion.

And like the “The Wizard” there are so many sections in this which has some killer playing along with Di Meola’s fast palm muted lines.

I like the blues soul riffs from 2.32 to 2.55 which then transition into a distorted riff and they then go back and forth.

Also check out the bass playing from Pastorius during these sections. Essential listening if you’re a bassist especially from 3.40 to 4.50 while Di Meola phrases his leads around the bass lines.

“Short Tales of the Black Forest”

A song written by Chick Corea which has Corea on piano and marimba and Al Di Meola on guitars.

You know when go to a lounge and see a piano player with a guitar player jamming. Well this is it, but the playing is exceptional from both and Di Meola knows how to use that acoustic guitar, especially those fast palm muted lines as he moves the songs feel into jazz, Latin, rock and back again.

John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess did a similar thing with their An Evening With.

If there is a cut to listen to, press play on “The Wizard”.

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