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Al Di Meola: Anthology

AAJ Staff By

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Okay, okay — he’s fast, he’s suave, slick, and oh so technically clean. Di Meola’s furious, flamenco, fandango, fusion guitar work stands alone. Very few have really ever gained exact echoes of his style. That muted percussive staccato riffage with explosive lead breaks and sudden stop-n-go colorings of tone and note texture have always been impressive.

Most folks came to know “Al D” via Return To Forever. He replaced Bill Connors. This gave a RTF a very different feel guitar-wise. Al D’s style seemed to mesh very naturally with Chick Corea’s leanings towards that Latin American and Spanish heart of things. Others came to discover Al D upon hearing his solo releases. I will have to say that to this day, my fav will always be his debut solo effort with Land of the Midnight Sun. Al D was trying so hard early on to express his own song-writing voice and excel on his instrument. An earnest, vital effort pours through everywhere. And so this 2CD anthology begins perfectly with the best cuts from that debut.

I indeed purchased all Al D’s releases year by year just to see how he would progress. This anthology fortunately represents most of the strongest songs from these solo works. What has bothered me about many of Al D’s tunes from album to album was a certain predictable manner in riffs, song flow, and voicings. Al D has always had this leaning towards a . . . “balladic, romantic adventure, conquering hero saga” . . . song flow with latin rhythms, smooth jazz breaks, then crunch and overdrive guitars, and then back to that late-day stroll on the veranda kind of feel. Catch my drift? When I was seeking harder fusion and jazz rock leanings, I had to endure extended world jazz and romantic guitars. But hey — many folks flocked to this mix and how sweet it was for Al D.

Most of the cuts on both CDs represent some truly fine historic jams and superb fusion interplay betwixt the likes of Phil Collins, Jaco, Jan Hammer, Simon Phillips, Alphonse Mouzon, Anthony Jackson, and Lenny White to mention a few. Both discs feature unreleased live material. Four tracks of twenty are a brand new bonus listen. I found Al D doing “Theme To The Mothership” pretty interesting. An excess of Al Di Meola collections and best of’s are circulating out there but you’re most likely doing a best service to your ears just grabbing this one. There is more than enough of Al D here to satisfy.

Title: Anthology | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Columbia Records

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