Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Al Di Meola: Flight Over Rio

I first got interested in guitarist Al Di Meola from his work in Chick Corea’s band, Return to Forever when I purchased their album “No Mystery.” It was an excellent introduction of this super group of jazz that featured keyboardist Corea, Di Meola, bassist Stanley Clarke, and drummer Lenny White. This band really gelled.

In 1977, I picked up a copy of Al Di Meola’s second solo album “Elegant Gypsy.” It was a promotional copy that was illegally sold by a record store in Huntington, WV. Many Tri-State residents purchased numerous promo copies at a discount from this retail dealer. Many times the “Promo Copy – Not For Sale” warning was covered over with a sticker; however, the notice was completely visible on other occasions.

It was no secret as these albums were in the store’s discount bin for anyone to purchase. Eventually the law caught up with the owner and he spent some time in jail – but not before I increased my collection by leaps and bounds. Among his racks of wax were some limited edition releases that were intended for issue to radio stations.

One of these was Billy Joel’s “Souvenirs” – a live radio only release that was very good. Another was a promo sampler from Eric Clapton’s “Backless” album. Known as “Limited Backless,” the six song disc was issued in white vinyl. Both were nice collectables that were suitable for my collection. The store also sold legitimate copies and had a good selection of import albums. I was able to purchase a number of Beatles’ LPs in colored vinyl.

I will have to say it was one of my favorite record stores; however, I cannot remember the name of the establishment. Strangely enough, I can remember stores that I frequented once or twice, but not this one. I must have blocked it from my memory.

I believe I purchased music from this store between 1976 and 1979 or thereabouts. It mysteriously closed one day and I didn’t know what happened to it until 1983 when I was visiting the Huntington Mall and saw the former owner. He confessed that he was prosecuted for the sale of these records and had recently been released.

I digress – back to “Elegant Gypsy.” While the style on Di Meola’s solo album was different from his work with “Return to Forever,” it was just as good. It also allowed this talented guitarist to shine on his own merits without having to share the spotlight with four equally talented musicians.

One of my favorite cuts on this album is the “Flight over Rio.” The track starts out with the signature synthesizer sound that only Jan Hammer can make. Hammer plays all the keyboards on this track. Di Meola and Hammer are joined by Anthony Jackson on bass and Steve Gadd on drums. Besides guitar, Di Meola plays all of the percussion on this cut.

Although the synthesizer sounds a little dated, mono synths were state of the art instruments in 1977. Di Meola mixes jazz, fusion, rock, and Latin music in one elegant musical concoction.

Unless I get a number of folks requesting that I continue, I plan to end this blog on September 26, 2012. If you would like to see it continue after that, let me know by registering your feelings in the survey found at http://tinyurl.com/8juv863

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