Al Di Meola, John
McLaughlin & Paco de Lucia,
Friday Night in San Francisco
(Sony, 1997)

On Dec. 5, 1980, something magical happened in San Francisco. Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia were two months into a whirlwind tour that was being greeted by Guitar Player magazine as "a victory for the acoustic guitar." The whole concept of the tour was exceptional. No amplifiers, no percussion, no nothing. Just three acoustic guitars on stage -- and that turned out to be quite enough. The crowd could not hold back their feelings (and since it is a live recording, one can hear them very clearly while listening to the CD).

Perhaps one of the best tracks on the CD is the very first one "Mediterranean Sundance/Rio Ancho," performed by de Lucia and Di Meola. Paco goes for the rhythm and Al adds the fairly impossible-sounding speed licks. The piece is very intensive, like flamenco guitar is supposed to be. While listening you feel like moving, you feel like you have to do something besides just sitting still. The track certainly wakes you up.

The second track, "Short Tales of the Black Forest," is performed by McLaughlin and Di Meola. Here the artists use some very extreme methods for creating sound. In some cases, methods like slamming the strings and smacking the sides of their instruments may be a total failure, but not here. McLaughlin and Di Meola come so close to the audience, you can even hear McLaughlin laugh.

Another very powerful track is "Fantasia Suite." Di Meola adds a fantastic rhythm and McLaughlin and de Lucia make the most of it. The result is amazing.

The final track, "Guardian Angel," is actually a bit out of context. It is not a live recording. But for a fan of acoustic guitar music it is still good to listen. Maybe it is not so "lively" because of the controlled studio environment, but there are still plenty of fireworks left.

Friday Night in San Francisco has sold over two million copies. It really is a great triumph of acoustic guitars. Certainly recommendable!

- Rambles
written by Ester Eggert
published 12 June 2004

[ visit the artist's websites: Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin & Al Di Meola ]