AL DI MEOLA — Land of the Midnight Sun

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AL DI MEOLA - Land of the Midnight Sun cover
3.88 | 23 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 1976

Filed under Fusion
By AL DI MEOLA

Tracklist

A1 The Wizard 6:46
A2 Land Of The Midnight Sun 9:14
A3 Sarabande From Violin Sonata In B Minor 1:20
A4 Love Theme From "Pictures Of The Sea" 2:24
Suite - Golden Dawn 9:47
B1a Morning Fire 1:15
B1b Calmer Of The Tempests 1:11
B1c From Ocean To The Clouds 8:38
-
B2 Short Tales Of The Black Forest 5:39

Total Time: 35:18

Line-up/Musicians

Bass – Anthony Jackson,Jaco Pastorius
Bass, Vocals – Stanley Clarke (track A4)
Drums – Steve Gadd,Lenny White,Alphonse Mouzon
Synthesizer, Chimes, Vocals, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar [6 & 12 String],Gong – Al Di Meola
Percussion, Keyboards – Mingo Lewis
Electric Piano, Synthesizer [Mini-moog] – Barry Miles
Vocals – Patty Buyukas (track A4)
Piano, Marimba – Chick Corea (track B2)

About this release

Columbia – PC 34074(US)

Recorded at Electric Lady Recording Studios, New York, except A4, recorded at Different Fur Trading Co. in San Francisco

Thanks to Chicapah, snobb for the updates

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AL DI MEOLA LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

dreadpirateroberts
In his first session as a leader Al Di Meola reveals an urgency that manages to blend perfectly with a more laid back approach to some of the songs and passages present in 'Land of the Midnight Sun.'

Inside this soothing blue package (one of the most classically 'late 1970s' LP sleeves ever produced) is whirlwind of scales. Di Meola is masterful when it comes to technique, though the inevitable Santana comparisons will be clear in regard to his slower playing and the strong Latin-rock influence on the album, especially with percussion added to the rhythm sections.

With 'The Wizard' Di Meloa unleashes a piece of fusion that alternates between cruisy and dramatic, before fading out over a lightning solo and sliding into the title track with its moody keys and some fine drumming by Lenny White. The sonata is pleasant listening and the 'Love Theme from Pictures of the Sea,' a vocal cut, is probably the only track that doesn't exactly gel with the rest of the album.

'Suite Golden Dawn' unleashes a fiery opening before breaking into the gentle 'Calmer of the Tempests' section, which soon breaks into a catchy riff and some call and response soloing between keys and guitar. Finishing on a more acoustic note is 'Short Tales of the Black Forest' a duet with Di Meola's old pal Chick Corea - and it's a triumph, holding up well under repeated listening. The interplay between the two is wonderful and shows a delicate touch from both players.

As an example of classic fusion this is right up there with the best, a great blend of rock, Latin-rock and jazz. An impressive debut and one well worth investing in for fans of not only fusion and Di Meola, but the guitar in general.
Chicapah
This guy embodies a perfect demonstration of the adage "never judge a book by its cover" because if you met the bearded Al on the street you'd most likely think he was a math professor at the local college rather than one of the best jazz/rock fusion guitarists ever. Maybe if he looked more like Jeff Beck he'd be more of a recognizable icon but that's beside the point. Those of us who heard and marveled at his playing on the various Return to Forever LPs in the early 70s knew he was a super-talented musician who didn't seem to have any limitations on what he could do so, when he released his first solo album in 1976, most of us expected to be completely blown away. Turns out that he hadn't quite found his footing yet but for a debut effort "Land of the Midnight Sun" was more than satisfactory, to say the least. Surrounding yourself with primo personnel doesn't hurt one bit and the opening song by Mingo Lewis, "The Wizard," wastes no time in setting a torrid pace with Mingo slapping the conga skins like greased lightning and none other than the fabulous Steve Gadd kicking serious tail on drums. Lewis provides the decent keyboard work, as well. It's one of the most melody-driven tracks on the album and it gives Al ample opportunity to show he can shred the fretboard with the best of 'em. This boy is FAST! The tune works well as an introduction number to grab the listener's attention, that's for sure. The nine-minute "Land of the Midnight Sun" has the familiar feel of Return to Forever due in no small part to the participation of Lenny White on drums. As do all excellent jazz-motivated rock tunes, this cut has mood-shifting dynamics throughout with very smooth passages gliding between the busier segments. Al demonstrates his swift muted-string technique flawlessly on his first ride, then cranks it up to deliver a fierce, screaming solo reminiscent of John McLaughlin's attacking style on his second. Overall it's a highly intricate, involved piece of music that's very impressive.

Next comes a 180-degree change-of-pace as DiMeola performs Bach's "Sarabande from Violin Sonata in B Minor" on the acoustic guitar. It's a brief but effective way to show off his ample versatility. "Love Theme from 'Pictures of the Sea'" is another short composition where he reveals his calmer, more sensitive side. Other than Stanley Clarke on bass, Mingo Lewis on percussion and Patty Buyukas' ethereal background vocal it's all Al from the multiple guitars to the synthesizers to the lead vocal and even the chimes. Unfortunately it's also the weakest tune on the album so the fact that it's less than two and a half minutes in length is one of its strong points.

"Suite - Golden Dawn" is more along the lines of what we paid our hard-earned moola to hear. The rocking beat and complex riffs of "Morning Fire" and the lighter touches of "Calmer of the Tempests" quickly lead you into the wild, impossibly funky groove of "From Ocean to the Clouds" where the clever interplay between Al and bassist extraordinaire Jaco Pastorius will spin your head around in circles. A hot jam session ensues with DiMeola sparring back and forth with keyboard man Barry Miles but it's quite obvious that the latter hasn't a snowball's chance in Hell of keeping up with Al's speed-of-sound licks. When they transition into a section where Barry gets to solo by himself on his Mini-Moog he fares much better. After more muted-string action Al opens up his guitar's tone and dispenses a blistering lead that is awesome. This dude is on fire! A droning, deep note from the synthesizer flows in and serves to gracefully segue from that fury to the exquisite "Short Tales of the Black Forest" where DiMeola on acoustic guitar and Chick Corea on piano perform a scintillating duet. It's an ever-flowing, inspired piece of art that builds and builds to a beautiful crescendo. The only way for me to describe it is to say that it's two exceptional virtuosos speaking the same cosmic language that can only be translated as gorgeous music. Al saved the best for last.

While the album has a few minor lapses along the way, it's important to bear in mind that this was DiMeola's first and it was a learning experience in more ways than one. If you enjoy the guitarisms that he is famous for then you'll find plenty here to gleefully absorb.

Members reviews

Miler72
Having been blown away by Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior (an album that literally took me years to warm up to, though, but once I did...) and Lenny White's Venusian Summer, I went and tried Al Di Meola's debut album, Land of the Midnight Sun. Like Lenny White's Venusian Summer, he doesn't hire a steady band, just whatever musicians want to appear, but Mingo Lewis of Santana (of the Caravanserai/Welcome/Borboletta-era), Jaco Pastorius, Steve Gadd, Stanley Clarke, even Chick Corea, and others appear. The first two cuts sound a whole lot like Romantic Warrior-era RTF meets Santana, which is no surprise given the members involved. He does a unaccompanied Bach piece on acoustic guitar, and do an atmospheric spacy prog number "Love them from 'Pictures of the Sea'". Surprisingly Stanley Clarke provides vocals here in that spacy prog manner, which does this piece justice. "Morning Fire" is a multi-movement suite, but it's basically one long jam with tons of fretless bass playing from Jaco Pastorius. In fact this was a big reason he ended up a member of Weather Report and became a valuable asset to the band. The last piece is largely Chick Corea on piano and Al Di Meola on guitar, and a rather relaxed piece.

This is truly a great album of Latin-influenced fusion, that I can highly recommend to those who enjoy Return to Forever (naturally) and fusion-era Santana.
siLLy puPPy
After his stint with Chic Corea in Return To Forever reached its natural evolutionary conclusion, AL DI MEOLA decided the band had reached its apex and took off for a promising solo career at the age of 22. On his debut album LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN that came out the same year as “Romantic Warrior” he really got to show his stuff. Whereas in the Return To Forever role he was limited to the whims of band leader Chic Corea, on this debut he shines in full solo spender and displays his knack for not only playing guitar at the speed of light making him one of the few 70s shredders, but also illuminated his talents in creating long drawn out multi-part compositions as heard on the astounding three part epic “Suite Golden Dawn.”

While this is a AL DI MEOLA album through and through, he did have a little help with his friends from Return To Forever as well as other musical maestros with each contributing on different tracks, only this time HE was the band leader and got to lead the way. The album starts off with the Santana-esque “The Wizard” which is a percussive laden drum frenzy which introduces the world to DI MEOLA’s unique world of jazz-fusion with his gypsy ethnic flair that shows his blossoming interest in Latin rhythms, Mediterranean cultures and flamenco. While the second title track is a nine minute plus jazz-fusion behemoth that is pretty damned good and displays some veritable guitar maestrohood, it is without a doubt side two of the original vinyl release which constitutes the just shy of ten minute “Suite Golden Dawn” and the closing “Short Tales Of The Black Forest” that are the true masterpieces of this debut release.

On these last two tracks we get some of the most versatile and beautifully constructed guitar music that emerged from the 70s. “Suite Golden Dawn” starts off with that frenetic “Heart Of The Sunrise” feel from Yes and makes me think of what Yes would have sounded like had they gone in the full-on jazz-fusion direction. The track then meanders into soft and loud passages that alternate in perfect harmony until its end. There are also parts that bring the excellent “Fire Garden Suite” by Steve Vai to mind which shows how influential DI MEOLA’s technical prowess and compositional skills would be so influential for guitar virtuosos that followed. The finale “Short Tales Of The Black Forest” sounds like a mini Return To Forever reunion with Chic Corea providing both piano and marimba and easily sounds like it could have been slipped on to the “Romantic Warrior” album and no one would notice. While the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to the brilliance of the second half of the album, the first is quite the entertaining affair save the rather ho hum attempt at a J.S. Bach sonata in the form of “Sarabande” but at 1:20 hardly the focus of the album. Overall, great debut that would springboard DI MEOLA into greater heights.
Sean Trane
Having recently shocked and awed the JR/F world with two amazing albums (Hymn To The seventh Galaxy and Romantic Warrior), Return To Forever was riding high on the wave it had created, riding on Corea and DiMeola’s incredibly fast playing, displaying a monstrous but cold virtuosity that would eventually have a lot of fans grinding their teeth. ADM’s debut solo album was another monster that would enthral fans around the world. This writer bought the album within the month it came out, well before he would indulge in Nucleus of Liles’ start of the decade masterpieces, so for a few years, this album represented what jazz-rock was all about. Although called a solo album, you’d swear this could yet another RTF album as all of the RTF members appears at one point or another on this album. Musically speaking, this album is a bit schizophrenic, as 2/3 pf it is pure jazz rock,, while the last third is more eclectic, from Classical to

Starting out on one of the album’s highlight, Wizard, with its superb rhythm section and Latin percussions ala Santana and Al’s guitar, often Santana-esque as well. Starting almost on the same feel, the title track is a tremendous piece, where Al and Chick trade incredibly fast and virtuosi lines. But in this case, Al’s guitar resembles more McLaughlin’s while the Latin percussions might sound a bit odd for this supposedly Norwegian-inspired track. In terms of jazz-rock, this album would be stuck between Santana’s bests (Caravanserai), Mahavishnu’s best (Birds Of Fire) and RTF’s Romantic Warrior. Closing the album’s first side is a slow Bach piece (Sarabande), which might sound out of place, but provides a welcome interlude.

On the flipside, the album starts on the equally underwhelming, a progressive piece that comes with delicate female/male vocals that could come out of Carlos Santana & Alice Coltrane’s Illuminations. The lengthy three-part suite Golden Dawn brings us back to the album’s main focus, a sizzling JR/F (can’t speak of pure fusion jazz album yet). You’d swear this was McLaughlin with Hammer duelling/duetting back in 72 for BOF. The closing Black Forest is a Chick Corea-written acoustic piece that displays the duo’s talents and closely the album in a very worthy manner.

ADM’s solo debut album is one of the late 70’s crown jewels, one of those albums that will probably never age and is part of the history of its genre. A very highly and warmly recommended album, and probably my favourite, even over the usually better rated Elegant Gypsy album that was to follow this one.

Ratings only

  • Phrank
  • theaterd
  • KK58
  • Lynx33
  • Boris Gargamel
  • progshine
  • Vano
  • historian9
  • yair0103
  • darkshade
  • Chrysostome
  • Anster
  • chuckyspell
  • trinidadx13
  • zorn1
  • botman86
  • b4usleep
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