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DiMeola, Al: Speak A Volcano-Return to Electric Guitar (DVD)

Amazingly enough, Return to Electric Guitar is the first DiMeola DVD to feature his incredible electric skills. You would think with a catalog so profound, there would be others? Not in this case. Beautifully filmed with crystal clear sound, (Dolby Digital 5.1) Speak A Volcano was recorded live in Germany (2006). For the first few songs this concert really makes up for any lost time in the electric department because this sonic spectacular contains some of his most dynamic recordings, --captured completely live-- prompting you to listen more eclectically, intently and effortlessly, due to the inspired performances of all of those involved. The song selection (13 in total) really highlights the incredible stylistic variety of this legendary performer. Interestingly, not all of these songs are electric? The whole mid-section of the DVD is comprised of various acoustic selections before returning to an electric performance for the last few compositions. Not that it would cause one to complain, but it did come as a surprise that as much as 50% of the concert was acoustic. Looking at the song selection, some will want more from his classic period and that is understandable, but keep in mind that Al is still making progress in many regards (incredible considering his advancing age) and this performance in particular really captures his ever burgeoning sensitivity to the under appreciated art of "touch dynamics." It really takes you by surprise when you see him in such firm control of every nuance of his sound and how it's projected. In the opener "San Marco" you will see him do everything from his aggressive fast runs, to rolling back the volume and "getting in touch;" not to mention his incredible cello vibrato technique. (Talk about touch!) There is a lot of balance, not so much emphasis on the overt fast passages as much as before (they are there) and it is a gas to see him chord comp. behind the band. It should be mentioned… anyone who enjoyed Orange and Blue (1994), already knows that he is capable of a considerable amount of restraint in his playing.

One of the true highlights of the cd is the interplay with long-time percussionist Gumbi Ortiz. After working with each other for so long you can see that they can almost read each others mind as there is a playful musical dual in the song "Red Moon". Al interjects some humor when he formally introduces him and goes on to call him his longest lasting relationship—well, professionally. Pretty funny-- for a jazzer! There is also one hell of a jam in "Señor Mouse" where everybody is shooting for the moon. These guys are so good that you can't really tell what is "improv" or formally practiced sections, and nobody in the band is giving any direct hints—if you know what I mean?

It could be said that Dimeola's true ace card is the intervallic complexity found in the solo-style compositions; coupled with an incredibly refined articulation ability, where he allows each note to retain its full value in relation to duration. Just check out the huge intervallic leaps in "Hypnose" (another highlight) and you will be amazed at how easily he navigates the great divide with his astounding alternate picking ability. Al has never been known to be an uncoordinated double picker (there are more than you care to believe) and even on his worst day, would never have to resort to cheating. There is even a bonus features section where Al breaks down some of the finer points of his technique and describes some of what I am saying. Do you know what a private lesson with Dimeola would cost? That alone is worth the price of admission!!! Anyway, after watching him, you just might swear off metal for awhile. You've been warned!!

Fans of DiMeola are encouraged to pick this up without giving it a second thought, and who cares what it costs! For those aspiring to play or climb to a higher musical consciousness—this is your first class pass to the sky!

Track Listing
1. San Marco
2. One Night Last June
3. Azzura
4. Mi Longa Del Angel
5. Rhapsody of Fire
6. Hypnose
7. Red Moon
8. Tena De Maria
9. Tangata
10. Double Concerto
11. Tao
12. Señor Mouse 13. Fugata
1. In Conversation with Al Dimeola
2. Al's Guitar Tip

Added: November 3rd 2007
Reviewer: Hugh Dark
Related Link: Al DiMeola Website
Hits: 3072
Language: english

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DiMeola, Al: Speak A Volcano-Return to Electric Guitar (DVD)
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-11-03 15:42:29
My Score:

Although the title Speak A Volcano-Return to Electric Guitar is somewhat misleading, as close to half the set here features DiMeola on acoustic, this is still a wonderfully filmed concert from one of the treasures of modern music. You'll be hard pressed to view a concert DVD that looks and sounds this good-the video is so clear, crisp, and sharp, that you almost feel like you are there in the front row, and the audio is equally as good. Al's talents on the guitar are legendary, and while he spent the majority of the early part of his career burning up the fretboards of his Gibson Les Paul's hooked up to Marshall stacks, over the last 20 or so years the guitarist has mostly focused on acoustic work with the occasional forray into electric land. This DVD is a merging of the two styles, and it's all enjoyable to say the least. Whether he's ripping it up on his Ovation acoustic alongside percussionist Gumbi Ortiz on the elegant yet fiery samba "Red Moon", or tearing off some lightning legato leads during electric tracks "San Marco" and "One Night Last June", each and every moment is impressive. Although the days of his shredding Les Paul attack are obviously long gone, there's something about his sweet tone on a Paul Reed Smith that's so engaging, and so inviting, as he proves that he's more interested in tone and phrasing that pure speed these days.

The Astor Piazzolla tunes Al covers here are quite lovely, as he pulls out his nylon string for three songs of sheer beauty that show his love for legends material. The real treat here though is the scorching full band attack on "Tao", and the Chick Corea classic "Senor Mouse", both of which contains Al's hottest electric playing on the DVD.

If all that's not enough, you get a conversation with DiMeola and a up close and personal guitar tip session. This is a mandatory DVD purchase for all DiMeola fans and guitar nuts young and old.

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