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Al Di Meola obviously has great love for and draws inspiration from the music of the Beatles / The Graham Album Review

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The Graham Album Review

This week, we have a whole album of Beatles covers by jazz-rock fusion guitarist Al Di Meola, and it's called Across the Universe.

New Jersey-native Al Di Meola has been prominent on the scene since the early 1970s, when he was recruited at the age of 19 to become a member of Chick Corea's fusion band Return to Forever. He is certainly a household name among guitar fans, and over the years, he has released dozens of albums, three of which achieved gold sales status. He has also collaborated with artists ranging from Paul Simon and Phil Collins to Herbie Hancock and Frank Zappa, and even Luciano Pavarotti. As a youth, he grew up listening to the music of Elvis Presley, the Ventures and the Beatles. He writes that it was the Beatles who really inspired him to take up the guitar. And Di Meola recorded an album of Beatles covers back in 2013, in a mostly stripped down acoustic guitar setting. The new album revisited the Fab Four's songs, with somewhat more elaborate arrangements, but in keeping Di Meola's recent work, he plays primarily acoustic guitar, and brings in his now trademark flamenco and Latin American influences. He takes up 14 of the Beatles' songs, with almost all of the instrumentation played by Di Meola himself with multiple guitars, electric and acoustic. The result is something of a mixed bag, with some tracks working better than others. There are instances of Di Meola bringing in some of the same sounds and distinctive instruments as on the Beatles' original, and then going off in a different direction, and others bringing in an entirely different approach, such as flamenco influence, which Di Meola has been doing quite a bit in recent years. Sometimes the arrangements are creative and focused, and at other times, they can go from one musical idea and sound to the next, seemingly at random. As usual, Di Meola's guitar work is impressive. One of his main axes on the album is a flamenco style nylon string guitar, though he gets out his electric and shreds a little from time to time.

Al Di Meola obviously has great love for and draws inspiration from the music of the Beatles. He returns the favor and applies his considerable musical abilities and creative resources to the Fab Four's compositions. As Beatles cover albums go, Across the Universe is one of the more engaging I have heard.

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