Al Di Meola: The Wizard
Al Di Meola (6 and 12 string guitars)
Land of the Midnight Sun (Columbia 1CK-34074)
Al Di Meola (6 and 12 string guitars),
Mingo Lewis (percussion, keyboards), Anthony Jackson (bass), Steve Gadd (drums).
Composed by Mingo Lewis.
Recorded: New York, December 1975-July 1977
Rating: 88/100 (learn more)
"The Wizard" was written by percussionist Mingo Lewis. If I were to take a wild guess, I would suggest its title refers to Di Meola's guitar playing, which did seem to be the product of some sort of sorcery. Who but a wizard could play that supernaturally fast and clean? "The Wizard" is a syncopated speed demon run. Di Meola's guitar has a rough biting edge. There is none of the string muting effects that we so associate with his trademark sound. Lewis and Gadd really push the insistent rhythms. The expected Latin influence typical of Di Meola, and Lewis for that matter, is only slightly heard. The tune has a rough melody that reminds me how the rock band Blue Oyster Cult used to play before they became big. Please take into account that the skill level of these jazz-rock musicians is several factors higher. (Not a knock on Blue Oyster Cult at all. Early Blue Oyster Cult is a guilty pleasure of mine.)
Land of the Midnight Sun was Di Meola's first recording as leader, the result of his impressive gig with one of fusion's supergroups, Return to Forever. In many ways it remains possibly Di Meola's most interesting work. Many artists throw in everything they have in their bucket for their first record. I think it is because deep down they are never quite sure they will get another opportunity. (See Billy Cobham's Spectrum.)
Do wizards have soul? That's a discussion for another time. But they sure can impress with speed and skill.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky