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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Al Di Meola

Electric Anthology

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve always been a big fan of the work of Al Di Meola. The man has a great skill at combining Latin sounds, rock and jazz into a powerful musical landscape. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his guitar skills are amazing either. This is a compilation of some of his more accessible material. It’s a great set and would serve as an excellent introduction to this incredible musical force.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Land of the Midnight Sun

Di Meola’s guitar leads this off and they launch out into a killer fusion jam from there. While this seems to wander a bit here and there it’s actually quite tasty.

Midnight Tango

This is much more gentle, but no less dramatic. It’s a potent piece of music that’s just plain cool. It also represents a nice cool down period from the fiery jam that preceded it. It gets more powered up around the five minute mark.

Elegant Gypsy Suite

This begins in a very Latin place, but as it carries forward it takes on elements that remind me a lot of Frank Zappa. This is alternated with more pure fusion sounds. It turns out into a different jam that’s quite melodic and powerful. This is a growing sort of jam that’s got a lot of power and emotion within. It’s pretty and diverse.

Dark Eye Tango

This one starts off much slower and more delicate but turns the corner into another fast paced powerhouse jam after a while. It’s one of my favorites on show here.

Al Di's Dream Theme

In some ways this feels a bit playful. It’s also a bit more gentle than some of the other material here. At least that applies to a little over the first minute of this track. After that it shifts out to more fast paced fusion. The composition is really quite dynamic. It weaves its way through a number of changes and alterations and includes a lot of rich textures and contrasts of sounds. There are some keyboard sounds here and there that bring in some of the most purely progressive rock elements of the disc. And we get some of Di Meola’s most fiery guitar work here. This is really a masterpiece and one of the highlights of the set.

Cruisin'

As the title might suggest, this is one of the catchier cuts from Mr. Di Meola and crew. You might compare it to Spyro Gyra in some ways. It’s also a trademark piece. This is fun and oh so tasty.

Black Cat Shuffle

If the last track drew comparisons to Spyro Gyra one can probably hear a good chunk of Dixie Dregs on this killer piece. It’s another that has a more playful tone to it.

Ritmo de la Noche

This cut has a lot more Latin texture to it. Comparisons to Santana seem obvious. It starts in a mellow motif and builds up in a great fashion. There is some tasty retro keyboard on this and some killer acoustic guitar soloing from Di Meola. This is really quite a tasty morsel.

Sequencer

If there is a misstep here, this is it. As the title might suggest, this track has a definite electronica feeling to it. There are still some killer instrumental passages, but this really has a dated feeling to it. It does also have some of the crunchiest guitar on show. This is good, but not at the level of the rest of the material. Still, it does bring some variety to the table.

Cachaca

Percussion starts us off here. The track begins to build dramatically from there. This is another that shares some sonic territory with the works of the Dixie Dregs. It’s a cool tune and has some extremely tasty guitar work.

Advantage

This is the first of two live sets on show here. It’s a great example of how well this band can pull it together live. This is one of the more rock oriented tunes on show here and a fine jam. Everyone is firing on all cylinders on this killer number.

Cruisin'

The only duplicate track on show here, this is a live version of the trademark Di Meola piece that appeared earlier. It’s a great performance and a nice addition to the set.

 
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