Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault: Al Di Meola – Casino

Its album number 3 for Al Di Meola, released in 1978.

This time around its more of a band with Al Di Meola on all things guitar related, Barry Miles on keyboards, Anthony Jackson on bass, Steve Gadd on drums, Mingo Lewis with Eddie Colon on percussion.

While the first two albums had a lot of rock and metal overtones to it, this one leans more in the jazz fusion domain, in which Rock and Metal is not the dominant fusion partner as it was on the first two albums.

Egyptian Danza

An exotic riff made up of single notes begins this song. If you’ve listened to the first two albums it would be familiar, however if this was your first exposure to Di Meola it would be unusual and innovative, full of time changes, Arabic like influences and unison bass/guitar riffs.

It’s progressive and the drumming from Gadd thunders throughout the song.

Chasin’ The Voodoo

Percussionist extraordinaire Mingo Lewis is back again, with another excellent composition. He is the one that wrote “The Wizard” on the debut album and “Flight Over Rio” on the second album. From the whole album, this song is the progressive rocker and a favorite.

As expected, the song begins with percussion before a progressive bass riff kicks in. The drumming is frantic. Then the guitars kick in with chords and Di Meola’s superfast machine gun alternate picking.

There is a lot to unpack here, but my favourite section is brief, between 4.15 and 4.25.

And you’ll be pressing play on this, for the very underrated bass guitar playing.

Dark Eye Tango

A slow groovy bass line begins and when the drums come in, it’s like a wedding waltz, which Di Meola solos over appropriately.

At 1.38 it goes into a Latin/Flamenco feel, as the tempo increases and the solos while repetitive are catchy like a good Chorus.

Then at 2.57, a brief distorted guitar riff begins, which reminds me of Rush and Alex Lifeson, before it moves back to the Latin Flamenco feel, 15 seconds later.

On a sidenote, the keyboard riffs are great to play on guitar as well.

Senor Mouse

It’s a Chick Corea cover from Di Meola’s days in Return To Forever before he went solo. But he slows this one down and it doesn’t have the manic interplay of the original.

Regardless it’s still a good interpretation and it feels like the start of a movie.

Some sections are atonal and some sections are locked into a mode, with some chromatic notes being used as passing notes.

I like the bass riff at the 5 minute mark which Di Meola then goes into a flamenco like lead to complement. His palm muting technique is excellent.

Fantasia Suite For Two Guitars

It has four movements, in “Viva La Danzarina”, “Guitars of the Exotic Isle”, “Rhapsody Italia” and “Bravoto Fantasia”.

While all the ingredients are there for a flamenco sounding track, it’s more classical and Tuscany, then Spanish/Portuguese.

The section which I think is “Rhapsody Italia”, has strummed major chords with sevenths and ninths added while Di Meola throws in a fast machine gun lick here and there.

Casino

The closer. 9 plus minutes.

How good is the opening riff?

This album is a lot more experimental than the previous two albums and while “Elegant Gypsy” is the jewel in the crown, “Casino” shows a style that he would carry through from the mid 80’s and into the 90’s.

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

Best Of August 2020

August had five posts on the new releases.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

For single song releases, “World On Fire” by Daughtry was released.

This time around Daughtry is angry and the melody is perfect over the aggressive guitar riffs.

Stressed out, head trauma, took a beating

Life is already difficult from our own doing and the trauma we inflict on ourselves with our thoughts and feelings When society gets a hold of us, we are even more beaten down, shaped and moulded.

But we find ways to survive, to move on.

“Jessie’s Girl 2” from Coheed And Cambria and feat Rick Springfield was also released as a stand alone single.

I’ve been a fan of the band from when I was given a CD rip of the “In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth” album in 2005 and a few months later I was consuming the brand new “Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV”.

Their song structures and the riffs got me interested. And the voice of Claude Sanchez got me to commit. That voice rocks out like Geddy Lee, but still sounds unique and different enough.

And the hair. Man that hair. It’s massive. 

And to top it off, there is the big SciFi saga about a mystical energy source known as “The Keywork”.

But the album which reigned supreme for me in August is “Terminal Velocity” from John Petrucci.

“Suspended Animation” came out in 2005. I purchased it from his website straight away and I’ve lived with this instrumental album for a long time.

Just recently it appeared on Spotify as well, which makes it easier for me, as I didn’t have to rely on my CD rip on Apple Music for listening.

On “Suspended Animation” he had enough hooks and catchy melodic passages that I could sink my fingers into and let’s not forget the brilliance of “Glasgow Kiss”, a tour de force in itself, especially that middle breakdown section, when he plays arpeggio chords over the open E and B strings and then that emotive lead.

And I have lived with “Suspended Animation” for a long time.

A long time.

Fifteen years later, “Terminal Velocity” is thrust upon us, in a world overtaken and overrun by a virus which spreads easily, kills and keeps mutating.

And fifteen years, it’s a long time in a songwriters life.

So many things change. You get older, you have different family dynamics and your music listening habits keep evolving or devolving or they end up in an echo chamber, listening to the same stuff you listened to when you were growing up.

And if you have a practice routine to keep up your chops, you will get technically better at playing your instrument. It’s that old saying, get better every day by a ¼ of a percent and over the course of 365 days your 91% better and over 15 years you are 1368% better.

Well, John Petrucci is so good technically that I feel like breaking my guitar trying to learn stuff from him.

Petrucci assembled the same band that he did G3 with around 2006, which is Mike Portnoy on drums and Dave LaRue on bass. It’s an awesome band and being a long time DT fan, it’s cool to hear MP drumming to JP riffs again.

“Temple Of Circadia” is my favourite, especially that clean tone section which kicks in before the 3 minute mark and the lead break which follows. Like “Glasgow Kiss” part 2.

“Happy Song” with the major key vibe is like the commercial song on the album, especially that Americana Rock vibe in the melodic lead. Petrucci said on Twitter that the main chorus melody is one of his favourites and I agree.

And just listen to the outro. Its finger breaking stuff and still melodic. This song has appeared live on his G3 tours and at his Guitar Universe camp.

“The Oddfather” sounds like a track that could have come from “Black Clouds And Silver Linings”. And one of the melodic tremolo leads sounds like a Muse lead, however Petrucci in his Twitter post said he was trying to mimic the sound of a fast alternate picked mandolin.

“Terminal Velocity” has that major key vibe in sections that remind me of this Arcade game called “Turbo Outrun”. It’s the first song he wrote for the album and it was an archived riff from a while go.

And that major key vibe is energetic and uplifting, while Petrucci uses the E Harmonic Minor mode for the main theme and melody to create a dark and mysterious type of sound, as per his Twitter post at the listening party.

“Out Of The Blue” is a blues fusion track. “Glass Eyed Zombies” brings the metal. It’s heavy, its groovy and MP is having a ball with it. There is this lead break section, like a verse, that sounds like those TV themes from Danny Elfman. And that outro again, melodic progressive metal with Petrucci nailing a brilliant lead to finish it off.

“The Way Things Fall” is like a Rush track in the intro, but then this melodic rock riff comes in and I’m all in. Once the melodic lead comes in, which acts like a verse, it’s perfect. You just need to listen to it.

“Gemini” is a song I have had for ages as a bootleg. I don’t even know when it was recorded or where it was recorded. But this song has been around for a long time and its very Dream Theater like from the Portnoy era. There are sections in this song that have appeared in DT songs and LTE songs, albeit with some variations.

“Snake In My Boot” was going to be called “The Stomp” and if you’ve heard “The Stroke” from Mr Squier you will know why it has a similar title, but the first impression I got from this was a Queen like vibe.

And on Spotify, he is getting some great numbers because people are listening to the album over and over and over again. And that’s a good thing.

Check it out.

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