Dont be put off by words like virtuoso, technical prowess or even jazz.
If you have even the most remotely open mind when it comes to music you will find the playing and the pieces on this CD breathtaking in their accessibility, humour, warmth, virtuosity (yes), beauty and musicality.
Lots of it has a flamenco feel and its the often hypnotic rythmn of that genre that ensured this would never have become (as far as non jazz fans are concerned) a bit of a jazz-geek love-in.
Its one of THOSE albums, where you put it on the best stereo, crank up the speakers, turn off the lights, close your eyes and lose yourself, over and over again, hearing new things every time.
The audience appreciation adds to the pleasure of listening to what was obviously an incredible night, listen to this and you will, like me, wish you'd been there.
This is the kind of recording that guitar players fear and love in equal amounts. In one moment you want to hang up your guitar for good, in the next you practice until your fingers bleed to be able to quote one or two phrases from it. "Friday Night in San Francisco" is quite simply an astonishing testament to three individuals absolute mastery of instrumental guitar. There is a finesse, passion, grace and humour in these 5 pieces that you'll be hard pressed to locate elsewhere. As a musician and avid collector of guitar music, I have to say that this is, in my humblest of opinions, one of the finest guitar recordings ever made. My only question is "Where is the rest of the concert?" If ever there was an album in need of an expanded re-issue its this one.
There are no explicit lyrics to be found on this album as mentioned in some of the Amazon captions, but when you play it there'll be a few tripping off your tongue!
Recorded live in 1980 , this is a dazzling technical display, showcasing some of the finest virtuoso guitar playing ever recorded, with numerous chops to die for and all executed at breakneck pace. If you ever needed a reason to give up, this is it. "Mediterranean Sundance" opens the set and sets the scene, with some degree of self control still in tact, but by track 2 "Rio Ancho" the competition has set in with some delicious call and response from all 3 players. The players were clearly having a great time, and this is evident from the atmosphere and buzz on the record, the Pink Panther theme quote in "Short tales of the black forest", and the magical interplay between the three. There's only 6 tracks, but they all bring together the power & spiritualism of McLaughlin, the next-generation fusion of DiMeola, and fine flamenco, phrasing and sensibility of DeLucia.
Whilst you may find an album with one highly accomplished guitar player on it, it is rarer yet to find one with three and yet `Friday Night in San Francisco' offers us just that in the guise of Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin and Paco DeLucia.
The album opener `Mediterranean Sundance' starts off with the most delightful guitar phrases and melodies, before it becomes a little more free form and jazz inspired and then comes back to it's original theme and finishes with a flourish. Spellbinding stuff and an awesome way to start the proceedings. The rest of the album follows suit and shows the virtuosity of all three musicians whilst giving them each room to breathe and shine.
There have been some criticisms that this lacks heart or passion and whilst it is technically brilliant and maybe of more interest to those who already play guitar, that argument isn't entirely fair. This can sound rather flat in places certainly, but it can also romp with abandon at other times and you can tell from the reactions that both audience and musicians are enjoying themselves. It also pays to be aware of the time this was recorded in and these guitar gymnastics were all the rage.
If you enjoy jazz and flamenco and if you play the guitar yourself then this should leave you pretty impressed and whilst it may not make your stomach ache with that emotion other music brings, it still manages to offer you something that nothing else is able to; even if that is just awe.
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There's not much i can say that hasn't already been said by my fellow reviewers.
To put it simply, if you like guitar, you will like this. Whether you be a fan of Eric Clapton or Wes Montgomery, Eddie Van Halen or Slash, Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix, the music produced by these three players with BLOW YOUR MIND.
The music is a jazz-flamenco fusion, all acoustic.
The first 4 tracks are live (with great atmosphere). The last track is a studio recording, but it's still damn entertaining.
You don't have to be a jazz fan to like it!
There is one draw back however, if you are a guitar player, this will not boost your confidence. No matter how good you are this recording will stun you.
As time goes by this may be a milestone for the acoustic jazz-guitar. Starting with the weak point; it's not that musical; three guitarists at the peak of their powers at boiling points bring millions of notes in just a few tracks.
On the other hand this is one the most sensational live-recordings ever! DiMeola is flashing and elegant in his rapid-firing playing of scals, McLaughlin is passionate, loud and angry, DeLucia is fiery and emotional in his playing.
Sound-wise (there's a Polygram-cd-version around too) this is the best one; it's remastered and has good liner-notes. Like my fellow-reviewer remarked before; this is not the complete story of that night; it's time the other solo-, duo- and trio-recordings were released too! Especially the solo-spot of DeLucia that evening was hair-raising!
Although a number of reviews have stressed the extraordinary skill of the guitar trio shown in the recording this should not deter any non-guitarists out there from purchasing this album. The technical ability, it is true, is truly astonishing but the album offers much more than this. From the opening medley/composite of Di Meola's 'Mediterranean Sundance' and De Lucia's 'Rio Anchio' the listener is promised far more than an exercise in technical ability alone. The opener is a real crowd pleaser, De Lucia and Di Meola performing a duet which sees them interchange between rhythm and lead sections to howls of applause from the audience. The second piece ‘Short Tales of the Black Forest’ is perhaps the most challenging of all 5 tracks but still highly enjoyable due to the fact that McLaughlin and Di Meola are evidently having so much fun themselves. Track 3 sees McLaughlin and De Lucia testing each others ability in a wonderful rendition of Egberto Gismonti’s ‘Frevo Rasgado’, while ‘Fantasia Suite’ has to be one of the most magnificent guitar performances committed to recording with all three maestros seemingly pushing themselves (and each other) to new levels. The final track, McLaughlin’s ‘Guardian Angel’ (a studio recording), although a worthy piece in its own right, sits rather oddly at the end of the album and provides something of an anti climax after the euphoria of the live performance. It does, however, provide a perfect introduction to the later studio albums by the trio which are highly recommended. A testament to all that is good in music and a perfect antidote to the mediocre tripe that pervades current ‘popular’ music.