Al Di Meola – Casino

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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Di Meola’s 1978 release finally makes it to the site, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too. A fusion classic featuring the stunning technique and superb improvisations that keep us on the hunt for great Di Meola pressings like this one.  

This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Casino have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1978
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Casino

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Al Di Meola – guitars, mandolin, percussion, hand claps
Barry Miles – keyboards, percussion
Anthony Jackson – bass guitar
Steve Gadd – drums
Eddie Colon – percussion
Mingo Lewis – percussion

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Egyptian Danza
Chasin’ the Voodoo
Dark Eye Tango

Side Two

Senor Mouse
Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars

  1. Viva La Danzarina
  2. Guitars of the Exotic Isle
  3. Rhapsody Italia
  4. Bravoto Fantasia

Casino

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Following up the superb Elegant Gypsy was no mean feat, but Al di Meola gave it his best shot with the similarly styled Casino, released in 1978. Featuring a core band of Steve Gadd, Anthony Jackson, and Barry Miles (whom di Meola came up with before the guitarist was invited to join Return to Forever), the playing is sharp and fiery, matching the youthful intensity of the leader.

Di Meola is a good composer in the fusion idiom, and the four original compositions on Casino, although clearly bearing the mark of Chick Corea’s influence, are strong. His “Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars,” featuring di Meola accompanying himself via multi-tracking, is beautiful and dramatic, and hints at the guitarist’s later all-acoustic works such as Friday Night in San Francisco.

“Dark Eye Tango” opens with a slow theme before turning into an uptempo vehicle for di Meola’s darting Les Paul. In fact, it is the leader’s solos that frequently prevent the Latin grooves and rhythms found on Casino from sounding stale and a bit dated. His trademark staccato phrasing and high-velocity improvisations are what is noticed upon first listen, but di Meola does have an excellent sense of phrasing that is undeniably present. Contrary to popular opinion, he knows how to use his technique to good effect.

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