Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Al Di Meola - 1976 "Land Of The Midnight Sun"

Land of the Midnight Sun is the first album by Al Di Meola, released in 1976. The complex pieces (which include the three-part "Suite-Golden Dawn," an acoustic duet with Chick Corea on "Short Tales of the Black Forest" and a brief Bach violin sonata) show Di Meola's range even at this early stage.

One of the guitar heroes of fusion, Al di Meola was just 22-years-old at the time of his debut as a leader but already a veteran of Chick Corea's Return to Forever. The complex pieces (which include the three-part "Suite-Golden Dawn," an acoustic duet with Corea on "Short Tales of the Black Forest," and a brief Bach violin sonata show di Meola's range even at this early stage. With assistance from such top players as bassists Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke, keyboardist Barry Miles, and drummers Lenny White and Steve Gadd, this was a very impressive beginning to di Meola's solo career.

After joining Chick Corea's Jazz-Fusion project, Return To Forever in 1974, guitarist Al DiMeola released his first solo album in 1976, named "Land of the Midnight Sun". DiMeola was 21 at the release of the album and I am surprised over his mind-bogglingly technical skills at so young age, and this album shows both his technical skills, as well as his songwriting skills very nicely through-out the album's (shockingly short) playing time at 35- minutes. Another great positive with this release is that DiMeola is themed up with a nice handful of guest musicians, including Jaco Pastorius from Weather Report and Chick Corea, who plays a beautiful acoustic duet with DiMeola on the last track. The music has very few weak moments and is a pleasant surprise to your ears. Overall, "Land Of The Midnight Sun" is a completely necessary release to be featured in your Jazz-Rock collection (or Jazz collection for that matter). The only real flaw is the short playing time. Otherwise, there's not much here to dislike. One of the best debut's I know!

Having recently shocked and awed the JR/F world with two amazing albums (Hymn To The seventh Galaxy and Romantic Warrior), Return To Forever was riding high on the wave it had created, riding on Corea and DiMeola's incredibly fast playing, displaying a monstrous but cold virtuosity that would eventually have a lot of fans grinding their teeth. ADM's debut solo album was another monster that would enthral fans around the world. This writer bought the album within the month it came out, well before he would indulge in Nucleus of Liles' start of the decade masterpieces, so for a few years, this album represented what jazz-rock was all about. Although called a solo album, you'd swear this could yet another RTF album as all of the RTF members appears at one point or another on this album. Musically speaking, this album is a bit schizophrenic, as 2/3 pf it is pure jazz rock,, while the last third is more eclectic, from Classical to
Starting out on one of the album's highlight, Wizard, with its superb rhythm section and Latin percussions ala Santana and Al's guitar, often Santana-esque as well. Starting almost on the same feel, the title track is a tremendous piece, where Al and Chick trade incredibly fast and virtuosi lines. But in this case, Al's guitar resembles more McLaughlin's while the Latin percussions might sound a bit odd for this supposedly Norwegian-inspired track. In terms of jazz-rock, this album would be stuck between Santana's bests (Caravanserai), Mahavishnu's best (Birds Of Fire) and RTF's Romantic Warrior. Closing the album's first side is a slow Bach piece (Sarabande), which might sound out of place, but provides a welcome interlude.
On the flipside, the album starts on the equally XXX , a progressive pieces that comes with delicate female/male vocals that could come out of Carlos Santana & Alice Coltrane's Illuminations. The lengthy three-part suite Golden Dawn brings us back to the album's main focus, a sizzling JR/F (can't speak of pure fusion jazz album yet). You'd swear this was McLaughlin with Hammer duelling/duetting back in 72 for BOF. The closing Black Forest is a Chick Corea-written acoustic piece that displays the duo's talents and closely the album in a very worthy manner.
ADM's solo debut album is one of the late 70's crown jewels, one of those albums that will probably never age and is part of the history of its genre. A very highly and warmly recommended album, and probably my favourite, even over the usually better rated Elegant Gypsy album that was to follow this one.

Track listing / Personnel:

1.    "The Wizard" (James Mingo Lewis) – 6:46
        Al Di Meola - 6- and 12-string guitars
        Mingo Lewis - keyboards, percussion
        Anthony Jackson - bass
        Steve Gadd - drums

2.    "Land of the Midnight Sun" (Al Di Meola) – 9:10
        Al Di Meola - electric guitar
        Barry Miles - electric piano, Mini-Moog synthesizer
        Anthony Jackson - bass
        Lenny White - drums
        Mingo Lewis - percussion

3.    "Sarabande from Violin Sonata in B Minor, (Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002)" (Johann Sebastian Bach) – 1:20
        Al Di Meola - acoustic guitar

4.    "Love Theme from Pictures of the Sea" (Al Di Meola) – 2:25
        Al Di Meola - 6- and 12-string acoustic and 6-string electric guitars, vocals, synthesizer, chimes
        Patty Buyukas - vocals
        Stanley Clarke - bass, vocals
        Mingo Lewis - percussion

5.    "Suite Golden Dawn" - (Al Di Meola) – 9:49
        I. "Morning Fire" - 1:15
        II. "Calmer of the Tempests" - 1:11
        III. "From Ocean to the Clouds" - 8:38

    Al Di Meola - electric guitar
    Barry Miles - electric piano, Mini-Moog synthesizer
    Jaco Pastorius - bass
    Alphonse Mouzon - drums
    Mingo Lewis - percussion

6.    "Short Tales of the Black Forest" (Chick Corea) – 5:41
        Al Di Meola - 6-string acoustic guitar, gong
        Chick Corea - acoustic piano, marimba

Personnel

    Al Di Meola: Guitars, synthesizer, percussion, vocals.
    Anthony Jackson: Bass guitar (tracks 1, 2).
    Stanley Clarke: Bass guitar, vocals (track 4).
    Jaco Pastorius: Bass guitar (track 5).
    Barry Miles: Keyboards, synthesizer (tracks 2, 5).
    Chick Corea: Piano, marimba (track 6).
    Steve Gadd: Drums (track 1).
    Lenny White: Drums (track 2).
    Alphonse Mouzon: Drums (track 5).
    James Mingo Lewis: Percussion (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5), keyboards (track 1).
    Patty Buyukas: Vocals (track 4).

8 comments:

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  2. The first link seems to be dead, could you please re-up? Thanks for the great music...

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