“Passion, Grace & Fire” is the second album by John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucía released in 1983. The names follow the words in the album title.
Unlike their first album “Friday Night in San Francisco” which was recorded live, this album consists entirely of studio recordings with the Di Meola and McLaughlin cuts appearing on studio albums previously.
John McLaughlin plays on the centre channel and a nylon-string guitar. Al Di Meola plays on the left channel and plays a steel-string acoustic guitar. Paco de Lucia plays on the right channel and plays a nylon-string guitar.
Written by John McLaughlin and it is also the opening song on his “Music Spoken Here” album released in 1982.
It’s impressive in the virtuoso speed at which they play the acoustic guitars.
Orient Blue Suite
Written by Al Di Meola, it’s in three parts, with each part fading out and the new one begins.
Shimmering lush sounding arpeggios begin this song, bringing an Orient and classical feel to the music.
The pentatonic lead breaks, played with intervals delivers an exotic sounding melody.
Towards the end it goes into a flamenco like section, which sounds at odds with the previous sections.
Written by Paco de Lucia it’s impressive in its technicality, but it’s missing a recognisable melodic motif here.
There is a “Live In Spain” version which de Lucia recorded with his group known as “The Paco De Lucia Sextet” and it’s a lot better than this version. There is a 80 second intro played on a woodwind instrument and when de Lucia comes in at the 1.23 mark, with his band it makes the different movements of the song stand out.
Side two begins with another Paco de Lucia and like “Chiquito”, its impressive in its playing, but missing a recognisable melody in this format.
Written by John McLaughlin and it is also from his “Music Is Spoken” album. It’s not available on the Spotify listing of the album for some reason. Its listed but greyed out. So I went to YouTube to hear it.
The intro is haunting and beautiful at the same time, as one guitar (which I presume is McLaughlin) plays a melody while the other guitars just down strum the chord progressions.
At 1.38, it becomes aggressive with some fast machine gun acoustic lines, as it transitions into a section I call “The Fire Section”. Towards the end of the song it goes back into the Intro, which sounds contemplative.
Passion, Grace & Fire
Written by Al Di Meola, this song appeared on his “Electric Rendezvous” album, released in 1982.
There is the piece de’resistance on the album as it has the arpeggio intro riff that is recognisable and it keeps repeating throughout the song.
The section from 1.49 to 2.02 is a favourite and the riff repeats again.
Basically the skill of the players to interchange between fast melodic licks and rhythm duties is great to listen to.
The three acoustic guitars sound great and it doesn’t get boring. Stylistically it moves between Spanish/Flamenco to Classical to Gypsy to Jazz easily. If you enjoy virtuoso playing, you will love this. If you want your instrumentals to have memorable melodies, then this might be difficult to digest within the flurry of notes on offer.