[Review] Al Di Meola: Splendido Hotel (1980)

A hotel with four sides and lots of room for guitar solos, this is a double treat for Di Meola fans.

Kronomyth 4.0: My spanish guit-heart.

Despite their personal differences over the years, Al Di Meola and Chick Corea have always been kindred spirits musically speaking. Splendido Hotel reunites the pair in what could be seen as a remake of My Spanish Heart in the guitarist’s own image. Both are double-album displays of a singular genius from multiple angles: jazz/rock fusion, Latin, classical, funk, romantic. Now, truth be told, not all of these facets were native to Di Meola, and it seems that some were fastened on to expand the Hotel. The classical “Isfahan,” for example, has its source in the languid jazz/classical landscapes of Corea, not Di Meola. And the ready-made funk song, “I Can Tell,” while well done (Di Meola’s voice is surprisingly restrained and effective), has more in common with Stanley C than Al Di.

The rest of Splendido Hotel offers excellent views of Dimeoladom: the sonic steeplechases (“Alien Chase on Arabian Desert,” “Dinner Music of the Gods”), the various tangos (“Splendido Sundance,” “Two to Tango”) and tango fusions (“Al Di’s Dream Theme”), the romantic warrior poems (“Silent Story In Her Eyes”). Had Di Meola simply stopped there, Splendido Hotel would have been a logical (and excellent) continuation of his first three albums. Instead, he adds about an album’s worth of material that exposes a heretofore unseen side of the artist: smooth jazz (provided by a young Philippe Saisse on his first recording), funk, classical and pop (a duet with Les Paul on the Al Martino hit, “Spanish Eyes”), and even a closing lullaby (“Bianca’s Midnight Lullaby”).

As I said earlier, it’s a bit of a case of artificial siding, but Di Meola doesn’t disappoint in any of those settings (although “Isfahan” is admittedly arid). I’d stop short of calling Splendido Hotel his masterpiece, because Al Di Meola albums don’t shake out like that; consistency is one of his hallmarks. Rather, this is a masterful collection of many pieces, some of which fit perfectly with previous impressions, and others that are slightly foreign but nearly as flattering.

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Original 2LP Version

A1. Alien Chase On Arabian Desert (8:54)
A2. Silent Story In Her Eyes (7:32)
B1. Roller Jubilee (Philippe Saisse) (4:42)
B2. Two To Tango (4:12)
B3. Al Di’s Dream Theme (6:48)
C1. Dinner Music of the Gods (8:33)
C2. Splendido Sundance (4:48)
C3. I Can Tell (Al Di Meola/Philippe Saisse) (3:59)
D1. Spanish Eyes (Bert Kaempfert) (5:07)
D2. Isfahan (Tony Cohan/Chick Corea) (11:35)
D3. Bianca’s Midnight Lullaby (1:53)

Songs written by Al Di Meola unless noted.

The Players

Al Di Meola (electric guitars, acoustic guitars, mando-cello, celeste, lead vocal, drums, castanets), Eddie Colon (percussion), Chick Corea (acoustic piano), Robbie Gonzalez (drums), Anthony Jackson (bass guitar), Tim Landers (bass guitar), Mingo Lewis (congas, bongos, syndrum, percussion), Philippe Saisse (keyboards, marimba, moogbass, background vocals) with David Campbell (violin on D2), Peter Cannarozzi (oberheim on B1/A2), The Columbus Boychoir (intro on D2), Steve Gadd (drums on B1/D1), Jan Hammer (Moog solo on B3), Dennis Kamzyn (cello on D2), Raymond J. Kelley (cello on D2), Les Paul (electric guitar on D1), Carol Shive (viola on D2). Produced and arranged by Al Di Meola; executive produced by Philip Roberge; engineered by Bernie Kirsh; “I Can Tell” mixed by Phil Ramone.

The Pictures

Album concept and direction by Al Di Meola. Cover photography by Bill King. Inner photo by Keith Williamson. Album design by Paula Scher. Album set designer: Ron Fuchino.

The Plastic

Released on 2LP and cassette in June 1980 in the US (Columbia, C2X-36270), the UK and the Netherlands (CBS, 88468/40-88468) and Japan (CBS, 40AP-1891/2) with gatefold cover; reached #119 on the US charts and #8 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1990 in the US (Columbia, CK 46117).
  2. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1997 in Japan (Sony, SRCS-9384).
  3. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on March 1, 2008 in the US (Columbia).
  4. Re-packaged with Electric Rendezvous on 2-for-1 on 2CD on July 5, 2010 in the UK (Beat Goes On).
  5. Re-released on 180g vinyl 2LP on February 24, 2016 in the US (Speakers Corner).

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