A wizard arrives precisely when he means to.
If you want to learn what made Return To Forever the greatest fusion group of its time, don’t listen to their records. Listen to the solo albums they made in between those records: My Spanish Heart, School Days, Venusian Summer, Land of the Midnight Sun. They’re breathtakingly inventive albums that stand with the best progressive fusion of their day, which is to say, Return To Forever. DiMeola was only 22 years old when he released his debut album, but 40 years later it still stands as one of the more amazing guitar fusion albums of all time. In a sense, DiMeola burst into the music scene with RTF, and he certainly bursts out on the opening track, “The Wizard.” Written by Mingo Lewis, who provides the propulsive percussion behind the music, DiMeola unleashes a fiery performance that mixes tango, rock and fusion and throws it at the listener at the speed of thought. The title track, featuring Lenny White on drums, is slower but equally flawless in execution; DiMeola’s mastery of his instrument at such a young age is one of those musical paradoxes. His technical proficiency is only part of the story, though. Equally baffling is his ability to balance his technical proficiency with constantly inventive arrangements. There are no missteps on Land of the Midnight Sun; even when DiMeola takes to singing on “Love Theme,” the results are excellent. The second side of music is split between the multipart “Suite – Golden Dawn,” which shifts from tempest to calm to cool funk/rock and features (fittingly) Weather Report’s Jaco Pastorius and Alphonse Mouzon, and a duet with Chick Corea on “Short Tales of the Black Forest.” Land of the Midnight Sun is designed to be a showcase for DiMeola, and it is, both in terms of technical ability and the maturity of DiMeola’s compositional skills. His next few albums would follow much the same pattern with slightly more or less success, but it’s here that the genius of Al DiMeola is truly unleashed for the first time, and it remains a fan favorite for that reason.
Original LP Version
A1. The Wizard (Mingo Lewis) (6:46)
A2. Land of the Midnight Sun (Al DiMeola) (9:14)
A3. Sarabande From Violin Sonata In B Minor (J.S. Bach) (1:20)
A4. Love Theme From “Pictures of the Sea” (Al DiMeola) (2:24)
B1. Suite – Golden Dawn (Al DiMeola) (9:47 total time, which I realize is less than the sum of its parts below)
a. Morning Fire (1:15)
b. Calmer of the Tempests (1:11)
c. From Ocean To The Cloud (8:38)
B2. Short Tales of the Black Forest (Chick Corea) (5:39)
Al DiMeola (six and 12 string guitars, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals, synthesizers, chimes, gong) Mingo Lewis (percussion, keyboards) with Patty Buyukas (vocals on A4), Stanley Clarke (bass guitar and vocals on A4), Chick Corea (acoustic guitar and marimba on B2), Steve Gadd (drums on A1), Anthony Jackson (bass guitar on A1/A2), Barry Miles (electric piano and mini-moog on A2/B1), Alphonse Mouzon (drums on B1), Jaco Pastorius (bass guitar on B1), Lenny White (drums on A2). Arranged and produced by Al DiMeola; recording and remix engineered by Dave Palmer except A4 engineered by Dane Butcher.
Cover design by Paula Scher. Photography by Jerry Abromowitz. Back cover photo by Darryl Pitt.
Released on elpee and cassette on October 25, 1976 in the US (Columbia, PC/PCT-34074) and the UK (CBS, S-81220); reached #139 on the US charts and #13 on the US Jazz charts.
- Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Sony, 34074) and Japan (Sony, SRCS-9180).