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Al Di Meola - Elegant Gypsy CD (album) cover

ELEGANT GYPSY

Al Di Meola

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.26 | 534 ratings

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CCVP
Prog Reviewer
5 stars One of the best jazz fusion albums ever

Al di Meola has been regarded, both in jazz rock and elsewhere, as one of the best guitarists of all time. Even though I could see that he was a very talented guitar player listening to the (few) Return to Forever albums I own, having a perfect technique and flawless musicianship, Return to Forever's music would, in one way or another, eventually turn me down. I just can't quite put my finger on it, maybe because of the huge amount of things that aren't right, but sometimes I just get awestruck as to how such a competent and talented group of musicians could compose some tunes that are, in my opinion, straight up boring.

Long story short, if Al could not pull it wile together with three other equally talented musicians, I doubted Mr. di Meola could put out better music by himself. Well, at least that was how I though up until putting my hands on Elegant Gypsy.

Indeed, Elegant Gypsy, in my opinion at least, rights many things that were wrong in Return to Forever, such as focus and proper melodic progress, which Al does perfectly here: he creates / comes up with a certain line of melody and develops it to the point it becomes perfect. Another thing which he does way right here and that doens't go quite as smoothly in Return to Forever is that everything gets its due space; there isn't a million things happening at the same time and when that happen they are the center of everything and every other instrument work around that thing (mostly guitar or keyboard lines).

As one might expect from a solo album of a guitarist, Elegant Gypsy is mostly about the guitars, but not exclusively. Yes, the guitars do play a huge part here, but so do the keyboards, that, at times, work together with the guitars in a call and response style. However, most the album revolves around the stringed instrument. Al here presents us with a barrage of unbelievable guitar lines and strikingly impressive ideas and motifs.

In spite of the whole album being filled with them, there are three in particular that amaze me every single time I listen to them: the guitar lines in Flight Over Rio, which make us feel like we are indeed inside an airplane (and the solo is just mind blowing); the speeding melodies of Race With Devil On Spanish Highway, which perfectly translate the feeling of being behind a racing car, the speed, the competition, the meandering curves. . . It feels exactly like you are in a speeding automobile; and the impressive layers of guitar music in the Elegant Gypsy Suite, which, by the way, is the song that sounds the closest to traditional progressive rock.

The other songs are quite good as well, but they don't have such memorable moments as those three in particular. Midnight Tango is, as the name implies, a tango inspired song where Al uses his proficient guitar abilities to merge the Latin rhythm with jazz rock, resulting in a very interesting combination of both. Mediterranean Sundance, on its turn, tries and mixes Spanish guitar to already spicy mix of jazz and Latin American combination employed in Elegant Gypsy.

There are some down points, however, even though these points actually account for what isn't in the album. First, despite the references to Brazil in some song titles, there is no musical reference to the country; Al limits himself to Latin American music, which in no circumstance includes the South American country.So instead of just mentioning Brazil it would be positive to actually mention it musically. Second (and this is more of a personal thing), I think this album could have been stretched or more songs could have been added to it in order to make it more musically diverse. In any way, these "problems" do not actually interfere in the album's overall quality.

Rating and Final Thoughts

Even some 50 years ago, doing something new with solely a guitar was a difficult thing. Al di Meola, however, managed to do that here. Merging jazz rock, Latin and Spanish music and, occasionally, progressive rock, Elegant Gypsy accounts for one of the most impressive albums recorded in the jazz fusion genre.

If you want to listen to an album that will definitely not let you down, with impressive guitar work and guitar-led compositions, look no further: Elegant Gypsy is what you most certainly need.

CCVP | 5/5 |

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