The ex-Return to Forever
guitarist's fourth and fifth solo releases (from 1980 and 1982) get the B.G.O. reissue treatment, which is to say these two albums are remastered and collected in a single sleeve. Splendido Hotel
compacts the original, sprawling double-record onto a single 68-minute CD, but the compact Electric Rendezvous
, perhaps a reaction to his previous album's more lengthy selections, clocks in at a conservative 34 minutes. That leaves lots of room on the disc, which B.G.O. could have filled out with either one of his succeeding discs. Regardless, these well-recorded sets both sound terrific and Di Meola fans will applaud their appearance in this classy package. Despite the ill-advised debut of a Di Meola vocal on the sappy "I Can Tell," an embarrassing attempt to pull off a George Benson
-styled makeover that will send most lunging for their "skip track" button, Splendido Hotel
successfully tackles a variety of music styles. Besides the typical hot fusion jazz/Latin rock of the sizzling opener "Alien Chase on Arabian Desert" that has become Di Meola's calling card, he stretches out with stunning acoustic playing on the extended "Isfahan" suite. That track also opens with an intro from the Columbus Boychoir
before setting off on a dramatic and intense ten-minute journey that features Chick Corea'
s piano and a classical string quartet. Fusion devotees will thrill to the tricky time signatures, soaring guitar, intricate playing, and thumping drums of "Dinner Music of the Gods" which is followed by a beautiful, flamenco-styled solo unplugged piece where Di Meola duets with himself. A funky, somewhat unlikely cover of Bert Kaempfert'
s "Spanish Eyes" transports the old chestnut to the present with a dance beat. Di Meola brings in an all-star backing band for Electric Rendezvous
, which features the ubiquitous Steve Gadd
on drums, bassist Anthony Jackson
and, most prominently, Jan Hammer on electric keyboards. Hammer's early-'80s "Miami Vice" synths are dated, but the interplay between him and the guitarist provides some of the album's most frantic sparks. Paco de Lucia
duets on "Passion, Grace & Fire," another suite-styled track that goes through a variety of rhythmic changes. These songs are generally shorter and the production less fussy throughout, with Hammer's "Cruisin'," a melodic jazz-rock highlight. Di Meola borrows licks from Santana
on "Ritmo de la Noche," a lovely instrumental that takes cues from Carlos Santana'
s "Europa." It's a short but sweet disc that makes a superb companion to the more expansive and exotic Splendido Hotel