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Al Di Meola

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Al Di Meola Land Of The Midnight Sun album cover
4.02 | 213 ratings | 17 reviews | 26% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Wizard (6:46)
2. Land of the Midnight Sun (9:10)
3. Sarabande from Violin Sonata in B Minor (1:20)
4. Love Theme from "Pictures of the Sea" (2:25)
5. Suite - Golden Dawn (9:49) :
- a. Morning Fire (1:15)
- b. Calmer Of The Tempests (1:11)
- c. From Ocean To The Clouds (7:18)
6. Short Tales of the Black Forest (5:41)

Total Time: 35:11

Line-up / Musicians

- Al DiMeola / 6- and 12-string electric & acoustic guitars, synth & chimes (4), gong (6), vocals (4), arranger & producer

- Mingo Lewis / keyboards (1), percussion (1,2,4,5)
- Barry Miles / electric piano & Mini Moog (2,5)
- Chick Corea / piano & marimba (6)
- Anthony Jackson / bass (1,2)
- Jaco Pastorius / bass guitar (5)
- Stanley Clarke / bass & vocals (4)
- Steve Gadd / drums (1)
- Lenny White / drums (2)
- Alphonse Mouzon / drums (5)
- Patty Buyukas / vocals (4)

Releases information

Artwork: Paula Scher

LP Columbia - PC-34074 (1976, US)

CD Columbia - CK-34074 (1987, US)
CD BGO Records ‎- BGOCD1132 (2013, UK) Remastered

Thanks to Philippe Blache for the addition
and to BrufordFreak for the last updates
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AL DI MEOLA Land Of The Midnight Sun ratings distribution

(213 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(26%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(57%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

AL DI MEOLA Land Of The Midnight Sun reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I did not pay attention to this album the first time I saw it being displayed at local cassette store in Bandung until I heard Meola's stunning guitar work in Return To Forever's masterpiece album "Romantic Warrior" which I only knew it in 1977. His contribution to "Romantic Warrior" is really significant and lays the foundation of Return To Forever's music. When I purchased the cassette version of this debut album "Land Of The Midnight Sun" it blew me away at first spin. What an awesome jazz-rock music! I was actually curious how would it sound like with Weather Report's Jaco Pastorius being in the scene. After listening to this album I still reconfirms that Jaco is one of the best jazz player even though in this album he plays differently than he was with his Weather Report.

Key attraction point of this CD is the skillful electric and acoustic guitar work of Mr. Meola. I could not imagine how fast he moves his fingers at the guitar neck as the notes and chords produced through this album is very fast and it has many variations. His guitar playing style has created a unique sound and you can identify whenever you hear the guitar sound. Terrific. The music is obviously a jazz-rock fusion in deceptively complex composition and relatively fast tempo. The two opening tracks "The Wizard" and title track "Land Of The Midnight Sun" are truly killer. Mr Meola has also capitalized the musicianship of his keyboard player Barry Miles through a great combination of sound with his electric guitar. Alphonse Mouzon on drums and Mingo Lewis on percussion have also given significant contribution to the album musical composition.

Highly recommended!

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After joining Chick Corea's Jazz-Fusion project, Return To Forever in 1974, guitarist Al DiMeola released his first solo album in 1976, named "Land of the Midnight Sun". DiMeola was 21 at the release of the album and I am surprised over his mind-bogglingly technical skills at so young age, and this album shows both his technical skills, as well as his songwriting skills very nicely through-out the album's (shockingly short) playing time at 35- minutes. Another great positive with this release is that DiMeola is themed up with a nice handful of guest musicians, including Jaco Pastorius from Weather Report and Chick Corea, who plays a beautiful acoustic duet with DiMeola on the last track. The music has very few weak moments and is a pleasant surprise to your ears.

Overall, "Land Of The Midnight Sun" is a completely necessary release to be featured in your Jazz-Rock collection (or Jazz collection for that matter). The only real flaw is the short playing time. Otherwise, there's not much here to dislike. One of the best debut's I know! 4.5/5

Review by The Owl
1 stars TECHNIQUE + MINDLESS SPEED is NOT equal to Good Music

This marked the emergence of a VERY negative trend in music, namely that technique and speed were far more important than creating music and actually communicating.

Al DiMeola for me epitomized a lot of things that went wrong with the jazz-rock fusion movement, which started off so incredibly innovative and exciting, Somewhere along the way, it changed from being about exploring bold new musical ideas to rather juvenile game of "I CAN PLAY FASTER THAN YOU JACK!!" Without ANY of the sheer musical depth of his former boss Chick Corea or a master like John McLaughlin or Miles Davis, Al burst out of the starting gate just whipping off scales at 19,000 mph but saying little to NOTHING in the process except, "I CAN PLAY REALLY FAST ".

Compositionally, most of the pieces here are not much more than textbook mathematical exercises, save for the Bach piece which actually gets a decent reading. Al's vocal spot with "Pictures Of The Sea" is pretty non-descript and pointless. Only "Short Tales From The Black Forest" stirs any interest, only because of Chick Corea's musicianship. On "Suite- Golden Dawn", Jaco Pastorious tries so danged hard to get Al to loosen up and play with some soul, but alas, 'twas not to be.

If you like super-speed shred guitar and mindless pyrotechnics for their own sake, this might be for you, otherwise, don't bother with this technique-ridden snoozefest. Al DiMeola sure proved he was far more TECHNICIAN than MUSICIAN.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!!

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 XXX , a progressive pieces 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.

Review by Chicapah
4 stars This guy symbolizes 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 John Petrucci 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 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. 3.6 stars.

Review by Flucktrot
4 stars If you happen to enjoy guitar shredding, then Al di Meola was simply a force of nature in 1976. This style obviously turns some people off, but for me, exactly the opposite is true. This guy had something to say (I rock faster than anyone), and being young and brash, he apparently wasn't afraid to leave that message plastered inside your ear canal. The result is a raw energy and intensity, the likes of which you won't find many other places (or at least I haven't). Of course, this attitude only works if you create good music, which can only be accomplished if you have musicians that won't be left behind or intimidated. It is here that di Meola achieves his true success.

Other guitar "gods", including Malmsteen, Satriani, and even di Meola in his later years, would be wise to keep this in mind: you don't make great music by dominating lesser musicians. Fortunately, that's not the case here!

The Wizard. What a way to announce your first solo album! This one grabs you and won't let go, as di Meola, Mingo, and Mouzon absolutely let loose, while Pastorius lays down some bouncy bass. The melodies are catchy, and the guitar of course is intense, but the highlights are the absolute explosions of percussion, particularly at the 2:30 and 4:00 minute marks. These guys came to rock.

Land of the Midnight Sun. This seems a strange choice for title track, because it's more light and playful than the rest. I also think the refrain (especially di Meola's raw tone here) wears thin for a 10-minute track. These are minor quibbles, because it's certainly an enjoyable, if not virtuosic, listen every time.

Suite: Golden Dawn. And we reach the highlight of the album, on par with extended fusion classics such as Cobham's Stratus and Mahavishnu Orchestra's One Word. A frenetic beginning quickly segues into a mellow section, which is all just setting up the main funky groove that will last for the next 7 minutes or so. The only word for me to describe this jam is infectious. The first time I heard Pastorious' groovy bassline coupled with the backbeat congas, I was absolutely hooked, and I have been ever since. Miles also adds some needed light keys, though the synth section has not aged as well. Yes it lacks a bit of focus and meanders, but if you're going to be a fan of fusion, some degree of this is necessary.

Short Tales of the Black Forest. Excellent playful piano and guitar interplay. If you enjoy An Evening with Rudess and Petrucci, that kind of music started right here in my book. Great end to the album, and an effective change of pace from the previous rocker.

For a debut album, 4 stars seems a no-brainer here. It's too unfocused for a masterpiece, but that's part of the charm: di Meola and company's goal was to make fun music, not to churn out a seamless, polished classic. The result for me is unique and a definite keeper.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Land Of The Midnight Sun is Al Di Meola's first solo album and here he introduces the style and formula he would go on to perfect on his next couple of albums Elegant Gypsy and Casino. While Land Of The Midnight Sun is not as good as these two later albums, it is still a worthy entry in this great trilogy of albums.

This album was released the same year as Return To Forever's excellent Romantic Warrior album, and while taking some of the elements from that band with him when he left, Di Meola's solo albums are also quite different - a bit less jazzy and much more Latino influenced. On this album he also ventures into Classical territory with Sarabande from Violin Sonata in B Minor, but not yet into the Flamenco flavoured pieces that would feature on subsequent albums. Another difference between this debut and the later two albums is that we find a short vocal passage on this album while Elegant Gypsy and Casino both are strictly instrumental.

The best composition on this album is Short Tales Of Black Forrest written by Return To Forever's Chick Correa. The interplay between the acoustic guitar and the piano is excellent here!

A recommend album, but make sure you get Elegant Gypsy and Casino first.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I like Al Di Meola's music. During last three years I saw him playing 3 times: once in Jazz Festival in Kaunas, next time - in his "New Sinfonia" tour with italian musicians, and third time - at the first european concert of RTF re-incarnation.

And whenever during last long years we are waiting from him different acoustic guitar shows, his perfect time was long ago, in late 70-th. I believe, that many of young generation fans even didn't know how perfect electric guitarist he was!

So, there aais Al Di Meola's solo debut album - soon after he left RTF. List of musicians participated is very solid,including god of fusion bass Jaco Pastorius , perfect latin-jazz drummer Alphonse Mouzon and keyboardist Barry Miles.

And the music is hot latin-fusion, still in key of RTF, but with leading Al's electric guitar. His playing speed is as fast as usual, but it isn't technique in the name of technique. It's a real high standart music, with melodism and energy.

Some compositions are still a bit raw, album generally isn't too much focused. But you can clearly hear the hand of genius there yet.

Even if I like some Al's acoustic works, I absolutely prefer his alectri guitar sound. And this album is strong example of his best electric playing. Still not the best, but between them for sure.

Highly recommended to anyone with interest to fusion, latin-jazz or just guitar virtuossos.

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In 1976, 22 year-old guitar wunderkind Al Di Meola rleased his first solo album. LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN was an impressive effort for the young Di Meola, and remains a very satisfying work of vintage fusion.

As a member of Chick Corea's highly popular and trailblazing Return to Forever, Berklee grad Di Meola had no problem attracting a stellar cast of musicians to join him in the studio. Bassists on the album are fretless pioneer nonpareil Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report), plus Di Meola's RTF band mate, the great Stanley Clarke -- at the time the only fusion bassist able to rank with Pastorius for fame and influence. Further bass duties are ably fulfilled by highly-sought session man Anthony Jackson, who'd played on a host of major pop, rock and jazz recordings, and is credited with inventing the six-string electric bass. On keyboards are the virtuoso Chick Corea himself, as well as one Barry Miles. Miles was a former child prodigy who'd been a dues-paying professional musician from the tender age of nine, and a jazz veteran by the time he cut his first solo album at fourteen. Miles has been labeled "the founder of fusion" owing to his experimental, multi genre- blending 1964-65 work with what he then dubbed "syncretic music." (He still works with Di Meola, and appears on the guitarist's 2006 CD CONSEQUENCE OF CHAOS.)

On drums, meanwhile, are three heavyweights: The first is none less than Steve Gadd, a former US Army drummer who at eleven had sat in for a set with Dizzy Gillespie. Seasoned sessioneer Gadd could command top dollar from stars such as Eric Clapton, Simon and Garfunkel, Paul McCartney, Steely Dan, B.B. King, James Brown, James Taylor, George Benson and Chuck Mangione ? indeed, anyone who could afford his rate. (Di Meola's budget has Gadd on one track here, the up-tempo opener "The Wizard.") The second drummer is jazzman Lenny White, Di Meola's Return to Forever cohort, who'd played on Miles Davis' landmark BITCHES BREW. No slouch on the skins, White's résumé rivals Gadd's ? he's worked with major musical names like Joe Henderson, Woodie Shaw, Freddie Hubbard, Gato Barbieri, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller and Stan Getz -- perhaps you've heard of some of them? (White appears on my favourite piece here, the epic title track.) The album's final drummer is Alphonse Mouzon, who was at the time a veteran of guitarist Larry Coryell's fusion outfit Eleventh House. Mouzon's Wikipedia entry identifies him as a former drama, music and medical student, an actor/composer/arranger/producer, and the current chairman/CEO of Tenacious Records. Besides Coryell, he's worked with (brace yourself): Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Lee Ritenour, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, Chubby Checker, Patrick Moraz and Tommy Bolin, and been a member of Weather Report. Whew! A certain Robert Plant named Mouzon as one of Zeppelin's major influences -- did I mention that Mouzon acts in Hollywood movies, too? Under-achiever Alphonse keeps the beat(s) on what is perhaps the proggiest selection here, the near-ten-minute, three-part "Suite Golden Dawn." ("Golden Dawn" also features Jaco, busily bubbling and funking unmistakably away on his fretless).

Finally, sometime keyboardist, composer and percussionist extraordinaire Mingo Lewis (who's also played with bloody everyone, from Return to Forever, to John Mclaughlin, Santana, The Tubes, Todd Rundgren, XTC, Eno & Byrne, to blah blah blah blah blah) provides bongos, congas (likely, everything but gazongas) on four of MIDNIGHT SUN's six cuts.

So, you ask, WHAT'S THE MUSIC LIKE? It's great, of course! Latin-infused fusion with oodles of Di Meola's trademark lightning-fast, percussive picking predominates, but there's even a brief bit o' Bach -- an acoustic offering to further showcase Al's expansive range. Standout tracks include the aforementioned, Lewis-penned "The Wizard," plus Al's acoustic guitar and piano duet with Corea on "Short Tales of the Black Forest." My favourite, though, has to be the uplifting and engagingly varied title track, a Di Meola composition on which Al, Mingo and Mr. Miles especially shine.

LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN is about as polished, varied and downright enjoyable a slice of classic jazz fusion as you'll find. Al Di Meola has been voted by Guitar Player's readers as "best jazz guitarist" no less than four times, and guitar historian Robert Lynch has said: "In the history of the electric guitar, no one figure has done more to advance the instrument in a purely technical manner than Mr. Di Meola." (Wikipedia) Listening to LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN, you can discover what all the well-deserved praise for Al Di Meola is about.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Guitar phenom Al Di Meola's debut album as a bandleader.

1. "The Wizard" (6:46) a song that is forever burned into me brain for the way it blew me away upon first hearing it in 1976. Now, almost 50 years later it still stands up well: for both freshness in sound and power and proficiency as a strong composition. Nice drumming from Steve Gadd but even better percussion work from Mingo Lewis. Great bulidup to the five-minute mark but then the crescendo and dénouement don't really live up to the hype until the very end. (14/15)

2. "Land of the Midnight Sun" (9:10) a great whole band groove with great starting melody coming from Al's smooth electric guitar, but then at the 0:45 mark we start the stop and staccato punching that Al becomes so known for before recapitulating the opening theme for the second verse. His playing is so clean and crisp! At 2:03 there is a motif switch into a gorgeous little Latin swing dance piece over which Al's muted soloing and Barry Miles' MiniMoog trade solo shots back and forth three rounds before moving into the stop and staccato punching for some Mingo Lewis conga display. Then we move into a different-key variation of the opening melody, another staccato divertimenti this time extended with some serious lead guitar and backing electric piano. Al does what Al Di does best at 6:20, soaring to Icarus' heights. The motif goes on just a bit too long before finally showing teasing signs of coming out in the final minute. Masterfully done! (18.75/20)

3. "Sarabande from Violin Sonata in B Minor" (1:20) a nice little display of classical feel and restraint for Al on this Bach piece. (4.75/5)

4. "Love Theme from 'Pictures of the Sea'" (2:25) obviously an excerpt from something else Al and company were recording that he liked but not enough to rework or re-record the piece in its entirety. Al's first display of his vocal talents (with Patty Buyukas and axe-buddy Stanley Clarke). It's nice, innocuous with nothing to really fault. (4.5/5)

5. "Suite - Golden Dawn" (9:49) a suite that is sometimes challenging to find connections between the parts, but the sum is nice. All in all it's good but not great (except for the work from the rhythm section). (17.75/20): - a. "Morning Fire" (1:15) opens sounding like Todd Rundgren's "Utopia Theme" only a little more refined. - b. "Calmer Of The Tempests" (1:11) a gentle tropical breeze from Mahavishnu land. - c. "From Ocean To The Clouds" (7:18) a funk-rock piece with liberal percussion and Alphonse Mouzon on drums. Nice trade offs in the duel between Al and Barry Miles' MiniMoog.

6. "Short Tales of the Black Forest" (5:41) an all-acoustic duet between Al and Chick Corea. Makes you comprehend how much of the RTF stuff comes from the keyboard maestro. Still, Al excels at playing with and off of other masters--filling those spaces with his magical flourishes and trilling runs. Chick's piano is recorded a little too far back--as if it's only Al's guitar that's getting mic-ed and all of Chick's piano sound is only being recorded by the grace of what Al's mic can pick up. (9.25/10)

Total Time: 35:11

The impressive debut album from prodigious guitarist Al Di Meola, fresh off of his first three albums with Chick Corea's Return to Forever project. While Al had undoubtedly the pick of the jazz and jazz-fusion worlds from which to use as his studio musicians on he could easily have just used all of his RTF band mates to display his singular compositional ideas. But his did not. While Chick, Stanley and Lenny all made contributions to Land of The Midnight Sun, Al also employed the support of such stalwarts as bassist Anthony Jackson and Jaco Pastorius, drummers Steve Gadd and Alphonze Mouzon, and keyboardist Barry Miles. As was becoming known throughout the music world at the time, a musician had to be highly proficient bordering on virtuosic to hang with Al; what would become evident in the years to come was that there were other challenges to working with the demanding, self-absorbed maestro. While Midnight Sun does not stand up as well as Elegant Gypsy or some other later Al Di releases (I rarely listen to it, choosing 1977's Elegant Gypsy, 1978's Casino, or his 1980s releases over it), it represents an incredibly impressive display of instrumental and compositional skills though I feel a slightly cold arrogance creating some distance between the music and me, the listener. It's hard to argue with Al's virtuosity; the issue, as the years will bear out, is with his ability to engage his audience with something more than his skill and prowess.

4/20/24 addendum: With all the grief over Al's "soul-less" technicality, I have to say that I disagree: there is plenty of heart and emotion here, even in those blistering runs. The true test, for me, is the feel the listener gains from listening to the artist perform on an acoustic instrument and on Land of the Midnight Sun I think Mr. Di Meola accounts for himself in spades.

92.0 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of multi-dimensional Jazz-Rock Fusion--a rather brilliant display for one's first foray!

Review by stefro
5 stars After his two-year stint with Chick Corea's Return To Forever came to an end in early 1976, Al Di Meola, at the grand old age of twenty-one, decided to go it alone, issuing his thrilling solo debut 'Land Of The Midnight Sun' through Colombia Records later the same year. A technical marvel from beginning-to-end(and all the way in-between) Di Meola's first album found the New York-born guitarist delivering a fluid, electric jazz-fusion set, very much in the style of his work with Chick Corea, though with the latin, salsa and flamenco-influences that would dominate much of his later material largely absent. Featuring contributions from all three of his ex-Return To Forever bandmates - Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White - there is perhaps an argument for considering 'Land Of The Midnight Sun' as just another Return To Forever record, yet seasoned-Di Meola followers will quickly notice the guitarists fingerprints spread across almost every facet of the album, from the quicksilver guitar shredding, to the slick production values and the album's sheer level of technical excellence. Also featuring guest spots from Weather Report duo Alphonse Mouzon(drums) and Jaco Pistorious(bass, percussion), in- demand session player Anthony Jackson(bass) and Barry Miles(piano), the sheer volume of unbridled musical talent on display is nothing short of daunting, especially considering that Di Meola himself had only just turned twenty-two(!), but don't let that put you off. Playing and sounding like a musician who's been studying the guitar for decades, Di Meola's talent is indeed special, and despite playing with one of the great fusion groups of the 1970's, it was only on 'Land Of The Midnight Sun' that the guitarist finally managed to take centre stage, something that really had to happen if he was ever going to realise the full potential of his abilities. Wreathed in that glorious, almost cosmic ambience that only the jazz-fusion genre can summon, this debut ranks right up there with the other classic fusion albums of the 1970's, albums like Herbie Hancock's 'Crossings', 'We'll Talk About It Later' from British outfit Nucleus and Di Meola's own debut with Return To Forever, 1974's career-defining 'Where Have I Known You Before'. Picking highlights on an album as dense, complex and energetic as this is almost pointless, and there are at least three tracks that deserve to have the word 'great' attached to their description, yet the truth is that this is a superb album in virtually every sense. Opener 'The Wizard' deserves special mention for its blistering melodies and gutsy riffs, whilst the nine-minute title-track and the glorious 'Suite Golden Dawn' both take the listener on a rapid-fire journey through Di Meola's complex musical domain, his constant guitar attacks embellishing a variety of instrumental moods and textures conjoured up by the almost-as-brilliant line-up of fusion greats backing him up. Even the brief and subtle cover of Bach's 'Sarabande From Violin Sonata in B Minor' intrigues, giving the listener a brief acoustic time-out, whilst the beautiful and all-to-brief 'Love Theme From Pictures Of The Sea' leaves the listener desperately wanting more....

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars 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.

Review by Progfan97402
4 stars I seem to remember back in 1994 (I was 21 at the time) a couple of people mentioning me Al Di Meola, but his name at the time was in one ear and out the other. It's not that I didn't want to know, it was the name was a bit difficult to remember at the time. I already knew who Chick Corea was, and I believe I just heard about Return to Forever. Of course once I actually became aware of his name, it stuck, and I was thinking that's who was being brought up to me in '94. For a while I gave up on fusion, thought it was just flash and no substance, probably because I wanted something a bit more prog leaning. But since that time I came to terms and started finding a tons of great gems. Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior was one, the first two Mahavishnu Orchestra albums, Les McCann's Openness to Invitation (even many progheads who like fusion should enjoy this one), Billy Cobham's Spectrum, Lenny White's Venusian Summer, and many more. Land of the Rising Sun is the solo debut from Al Di Meola, released right after Romantic Warrior. On this album Lenny White, Stanley Clarke, and even Chick Corea makes an appearance here, also Steve Gadd, Mingo Lewis, Alphononse Mouzon, and Jaco Pastorius, amongst others. "The Wizard" sounds like a cross between Santana and Romantic Warrior-era RTF, which is little surprise given Mingo Lewis had been a member of Santana. The title track is more or less the same, but then he diverts with the next two. "Sarabande from Violin Sonata in B Minor" which is just an unaccompanied Bach piece with Di Meola playing said piece of guitar. "Love Them From Pictures of the Sea" is a spacy number, Stanley Clarke actually provides some vocals, and one might expect some inappropriate R&B type of number, Clarke totally avoids that vocal style. "Suite - Golden Dawn" is a real highlight, with extended jamming, a bit of a Santana thing going on, with Jaco Pastorius being ever busy on his bass. "Short Tales of the Black Forest" is basically him and Chick Corea, all acoustic, no electric guitars or electric pianos here, Chick Corea providing standard piano, Di Meola providing acoustic guitar. It has a bit of a Spanish flamenco thing going on, which isn't any surprise given Chick Corea frequently recorded Spanish-influenced albums (most obvious being My Spanish Heart).

I've heard great things about this album, and I'm ever so glad to have this in my collection, it really is great.

Latest members reviews

4 stars 1976 was a breakout year for jazz guitarist extraordinaire Al Di Meola. He had already taken the jazz-rock fusion world by storm with his fleet-fingered contributions to the excellent 'Romantic Warrior' album from Return to Forever earlier in the year, but in the fall he would unleash his deb ... (read more)

Report this review (#1156553) | Posted by Prog 74 | Tuesday, April 1, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 1st release of a Guitar's Master... Al Di Meola makes his appearance to the Jazz/ Rock/ Fusion world of music. Nothing would be the same after this. ''Land of the Midnight Sun'' is his first album... Al Di Meola consists of a guitar master, that composes music, with elements from Jazz, to Fus ... (read more)

Report this review (#241840) | Posted by FatalV | Monday, September 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It's a guitar player's album, but it's really all about the drumming. In truth, this first Al solo album is different from his later stuff. It's more raw and fiery, less contrived, and far more spontaneous. That's because of Mingo Lewis: percussionist extraordinaire. Mingo had just emerge ... (read more)

Report this review (#124906) | Posted by vingaton | Wednesday, June 6, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I finally picked up this CD last week...after giving up hope that it would be re-matered and expanded, etc. I loved the LP back in the day...and I love it evem more now. The opening track, "The Wizard", the title track (dedicaterd to friend, partner and mentor Chick Corea) and the Golden ... (read more)

Report this review (#98538) | Posted by Rutgers Joe | Monday, November 13, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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