Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco De Lucia: Guardian Angel
The Guitar Trio
Friday Night in San Francisco (Columbia/Legacy CK 65168)
Composed by John McLaughlin.
Recorded: San Francisco, CA, December 5, 1980
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
The 1981 release of Friday Night in San Francisco marked a turning point, becoming arguably the most influential acoustic guitar record ever produced. Sure, the acoustic guitar had enjoyed some commercial popularity in the modern jazz era. There were Charlie Byrd, Laurindo Almeida and Antonio Carlos Jobim, though the last-named was better known for his composing. Those artists were more admired for the popular tunes they played than for their guitar artistry. One exception was the Brazilian guitar duo Los Indios Tabajaras. Those brothers could really play!
The Guitar Trio (McLaughlin, Di Meola & De Lucia) changed the thinking about acoustic guitar. Since this album's release, thousands of guitarists have tried to match its virtuosity. Even today, it is the standard by which all other jazz or world music guitar recordings are measured. Moreover, these musicians proved they could play unplugged and still appeal to young fusion fans. The album went gold.
"Guardian Angel" is a John McLaughlin composition that, unlike other tracks on this live album, was recorded in the studio. In many ways, it is superior to the live cuts. We hear it in a more pristine environment. The notes are cleaner. There are no distractions. Forlorn arpeggios are intertwined to create the introduction. The melody, parts of which are eventually played in triplicate and blinding speed and precision, is an intricate statement. Despite this, it is just not a blur of 128th notes. It is a fully realized emotional piece of music that returns often to a central theme. Of course these guys could play fast. There is no denying that we are in a wild race of some sort as they duel and cajole each other at 200 miles an hour. But the caution flag comes out often to get them back on the safe part of the track. Some have criticized the speed of the notes. While I agree that speed without melody or purpose is just a technical exercise, I suggest the real reason for this criticism is that the world is full of a million jealous guitar players. But it won't stop them from trying to play this stuff. Will it?
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky