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The Record Vault: Al Di Meola – Elegant Gypsy

“Elegant Gypsy” is the second album by Al Di Meola, released in 1977 by Columbia Records.

The musicians for the album are Al Di Meola on guitar, piano, synthesizer and percussion, Paco de Lucia on guitar, Jan Hammer and Barry Miles on keyboards, Anthony Jackson on bass guitar, Steve Gadd and Lenny White on drums and Mingo Lewis on congas, synthesizers, organ and percussion.

“Flight Over Rio”

Percussionist Mingo Lewis has written another 10/10 opening track.

Like “The Wizard” on the debut album, this track is loaded with great riffs.

At 7 minutes and 16 seconds, it’s the first 90 seconds which is essential listening, just for the bass riff.

Tool built a career from bass riffs like this. It also reminds me of the soundtrack work that John Carpenter would do, like in “Escape From New York”.

Then it goes into something similar to “The Wizard” with a bass groove, which allows Al Di Meola to flex his chops.

Check out the lead break from 2.48 to 3.48. After that Di Meola goes into a solo tag with the keyboardist Jan Hammer, which has Di Meola soloing on a few bars and then Hammer and they go back and forth. Like the Dream Theater guys.

“Midnight Tango”

Written by Al Di Meola and at 7 minutes and 28 seconds in length.

Press play to hear jazz rock fusion in all its glory from the 3 minute mark. It begins with some fast major key playing, however it is brief and then it goes into a Latin-esque passage. It stays within this domain, while Di Meola delivers a lead break which Santana lovers would say is from good ol’ Carlos.

At 4.58, it goes into a lick which reminds me of licks from 80’s Heavy Metal artists. And Di Meola knows a good lick when he hears one and he carries this lick and chord progression all the way to the end.

“Mediterranean Sundance”

Just over 5 minutes long, this Al Di Meola composition is the first song I heard from Al Di Meola and it made me a fan instantly.

It’s the crown in his jewel and showcases his acoustic prowess to the world. Of course he calls in his friends to lend a hand in Paco de Lucia and their playing is at another level.

This song would also get released many years later, from a live recording that Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucia and John McLaughlin would do on the “Friday Night In San Francisco” album.

Listen to the sections from the 28 second mark to the 51 second mark. It’s all fingers folks, no pick. So just press play, lay back, close your eyes, be in awe at the playing and let the music take you away.

“Race with Devil on Spanish Highway”

Written by Al Di Meola, this is the track that was referenced by the 80’s players as an influence. Once you hear it, you will know why.

A simple bass riff begins proceedings, then Di Meola joins with a distorted guitar. After repeating a few times, they both go into some serious fast alternate picking. Hearing the bass and guitar play in unison is pure bliss.

After the hectic intro at around 1.15 it goes into this jazz rock lounge section. Its relaxed and it actually feels that you are cruising the streets in your car.

But at 2.09, a section begins which is heavy metal. While those riffs are playing, Al Di Meola starts his shred solo. By 3.13, it ends and transitions into a different section which is a combination of the previous sections mentioned.

Then “the section” begins from 4.10. The Intro riff is played, but everything is faster, more frantic. And at 4.51, Di Meola is soloing super-fast to about the 5.10 mark.

He then pulls an awesome riff out for the outro, which has some of his best soloing in it, moving from emotion to super-fast alternate picking.

“Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil”

A short acoustic piece at 1.46, a calm within all the technicality delivered by Di Meola and de Lucia.

“Elegant Gypsy Suite”

At 9 minutes and 16 seconds long, it’s definitely elegant. So many different styles are covered but back then it was all just music. Styles and genres didn’t matter.

My favourite section is from the 8 minute mark to the end of the song.

This album is his masterpiece. If you like guitar instrumental music, then your collection is not complete with this album.

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