Sunday, May 19, 2024

Al Di Meola - Land Of The Midnight Sun (1976)

(U.S 1974 - Present)

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 band - 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 Chick Corea, and drummers Lenny White and Steve Gadd, this was a very impressive beginning to Di Meola's solo career.

Al Di Meola in Return To Forever
Album Review

“The Wizard” gives the album a very Latin start. Di Meola’s guitar, synth and percussion combine together to create insane harmonies, as the song makes a journey through multiple tempo shifts. The tune is nothing short of mind-blowing, and makes a long-lasting impact on the listener’s mind straightaway. The sheer range of Di Meola’s musical abilities is quite evident even in these mere six and a half minutes.

The title song keeps a similar style going, but in the process it provides yet more delightful musical passages that vary from each other but are brilliantly arranged together to somehow make the tune sound like a cohesive unit. The bass sound is also quite a lot more prominent in this one as compared to the opening track. The song is over 9 minutes long, but I have come across countless number of songs that are of equal or longer duration, and don’t even come close to being as musically rich as this one.

A short acoustic guitar piece titled “Sarabande From Violin Sonata In B Minor” comes next. There is nothing quite as mentally liberating as the pristine sound of an acoustic guitar, and when it’s being played by someone like Di Meola, it’s even better. So needless to say, I’m glad that the album includes an acoustic guitar piece by itself. This is followed by another soft little piece of music titled “Love Theme From Pictures Of The Sea”. Besides the sounds of the acoustic guitar, electric guitar and traces of percussion and synth, for the first and only time on the album you’ll hear vocals.

Side B has just two tracks, the first being a three-part opus titled “Suite Golden Dawn”. I would say the titles of the three parts, “Morning Fire”, “Calmer Of The Tempests” and “From Ocean To The Clouds” are completely justified as the music creates images that go perfectly with their respective titles. The tune moves beautifully from part to part as they blend very smoothly into each other. Di Meola and his posse of musicians offer a whole plethora of music, creating 10 minutes that can truly be savored.

The album comes to a perfect ending, with veteran musician Chick Corea joining in with a composition of his own, titled “Short Tales Of The Black Forest”. Not only did he write the complete song, but also played the piano and marimba on it, making it quite a unique track that stands on its own when compared to the rest of the album.

Overall, this album is outstanding. It’s pretty clear that the brilliance of Al Di Meola was there for everyone to see, even at such an early stage of his career, and this album certainly provided the ideal launching pad for the rest of his career, inspiring Di Meola to keep creating music that in turn became a huge inspiration for others who were fortunate enough to be exposed to this piece of music when it was actually first released, as I was.  Consequently, I have purchased most of his vinyl and CD releases over his 50 year career.

This post consists of FLACs ripped from CD (my vinyl has been played to death and sadly showing its age) and includes artwork for both media types.  Label scans and photos are also included.  No need to provide any bonus material, the album speaks for itself. Al Di Meola is the best jazz rock guitarist in my opinion and although there are other great jazz rock axemen such as John McLaughlin, Carlos Santana, Steve Khan and Jan Akkerman, Di Meola's speed and technical prowess on the guitar fret board is simply at the next level in comparison.

1 - The Wizard - 6:47
2 - Land Of The Midnight Sun - 9:11
3 - Sarabande From Violin Sonata In B Minor - 1:20
4 - Love Theme From "Pictures Of The Sea" - 2:26
5 - Suite Golden Dawn - 9:50
5.1 - Morning Fire -
5.2 - Calmer Of The Tempest -
5.3 - From Ocean To The Clouds -
6 - Short Tales Of The Black Forest - 5:41

    Al Di Meola – guitars, synthesizer, percussion, vocals
    Chick Corea – on 6: piano, marimba
    Barry Miles – on 2,5: keyboards, synthesizer
    Stanley Clarke – on 4: bass guitar, vocals
    Anthony Jackson – on 1,2: bass guitar
    Jaco Pastorius – on 5: bass guitar
    Steve Gadd – on 1: drums
    Alphonse Mouzon – on 5: drums
    Lenny White – on 2: drums
    Mingo Lewis – percussion
    Patty Buyukas – on 4: vocals

Released: October 25, 1976
Recorded: July & August 1975
Studio: Different Fur Trading, San Francisco; Electric Lady, New York City

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