[Review] Al Di Meola: Elegant Gypsy (1977)

A steady cast of players, synthesizers and more great guitar-driven fusion mark Di Meola’s second album, which otherwise follows the first’s format.

Kronomyth 2.0: The world according to guitARP.

It’s 1:30 in the land of the midnight sun, and while Pontificus Maximus is off making musicmagic in some dim dungeon, Al Di Meola continues to cut through the competition with his black axe. Elegant Gypsy follows the same design as his first record and features many of the same players: Steve Gadd, Anthony Jackson, Mingo Lewis, Barry Miles, Lenny White. The new wrinkle here is the participation of Jan Hammer and the first recorded meeting of Di Meola and flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia on “Mediterranean Sundance.” Di Meola’s second disc is also notable for the introduction of spacier sounds: synthesizers, mini-moogs and guitar effects (Anthony Jackson’s bass, for example, seems to be run through some kind of flanger).

If the effect of Elegant Gypsy is slightly less impressive than Land of The Midnight Sun (and, in my opinion, it is), it’s best to remember that Di Meola’s first record was very impressive. This time around, the arrangements are a little less breathtaking, and actually seem to drag in a few spots: Jan Hammer’s tuneless mini-moog solo on the opening track is one instance, the first half of “Midnight Tango” is another. There’s still plenty to recommend this to romantic warriors, however: “Elegant Gypsy Suite,” “Race With Devil On Spanish Highway” and the second half of “Midnight Tango.”

On Elegant Gypsy, the acoustic guitar may actually get the upper hand. There’s no denying that the duet between De Lucia and Di Meola is a heavenly alignment of stars, and even the brief “Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil” stands out as perhaps the album’s best mix of melody and technique. Basically, this is Land of The Midnight Sun with less Santana worship, more synthesizers and a teaser of the guitar trio to come.

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Original LP Version

A1. Flight Over Rio (Mingo Lewis) (7:10)
A2. Midnight Tango (7:26)
A3. Mediterranean Sundance (5:07)
B1. Race With Devil On Spanish Highway (6:15)
B2. Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil (1:44)
B3. Elegant Gypsy Suite (9:12)

All songs written and arranged by Al Di Meola unless noted.

The Players

Al Di Meola (electric 6 & 12 string guitars, acoustic guitar, arp synthesizer, arp string ensemble, acoustic piano, castanets, maracas, timbales, percussion), Steve Gadd (drums), Jan Hammer (electric piano, mini moog), Anthony Jackson (bass guitar), Mingo Lewis (congas, percussion, shakers, timbales, cowbell, arp odyssey, arp sequencer, organ), Barry Miles (electric piano, acoustic piano, mini moog), Lenny White (drums, timbales) with Paco De Lucia (acoustic guitar on 3). Produced and directed by Al Di Meola; engineered by Dave Palmer.

The Pictures

Front cover and inner sleeve picture concept and direction by Al Di Meola. Design by Paula Scher, photography by Bill King. King was a highly regarded fashion photographer at the time, known for his unique sense of capturing motion and beauty.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in March 1977 in the US (Columbia, PC/PCT 34461), the UK (CBS, S CBS 81845), Japan (CBS/Sony, 25AP-540) and the Netherlands (CBS, CBS 81845) with innersleeve; reached #58 on the US charts and #5 on the US Jazz charts (RIAA-certified gold record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (CBS/Sony, 25AP-900).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Columbia, JC 34461) {with barcode}.
  3. Re-released on half-speed mastered elpee in 1981 in the US and Canada (CBS Master Sound, HC 44461).
  4. Re-issued on cassette in Poland (Euro Star, ES 1134).
  5. Re-issued on cassette in Poland (JAM, JM 82).
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in 1987 in the US (Columbia, CK 34461).
  7. Re-released on remastered compact disc on March 23, 2001 in Japan (Sony, SRCS-9655).
  8. Re-released on super audio compact disc on August 2, 2002 in Japan (Sony).
  9. Re-packaged with Casino on 2-for-1 compact disc in 2010 (Beat Goes On).
  10. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2013 (Music on Vinyl).
  11. Re-released on Blu-spec compact disc on October 9, 2013 in Japan (Sony, SICP 30303).

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