Friday Night In San Francisco – John McLaughlin/ Paco De Lucia/ Al Dimeola

WORTH A LISTEN

Rating: ★★½☆☆

I remember being completely stoked by the idea of this guitar trio back in the early 80′s. I even hitchhiked 80 miles from Gainesville, Florida to Ocala in order to catch one of their concerts. Paco De Lucia was a no-show because he was sick that day. I wasn’t impressed with the concert, but I thought, “Well, that’s because Paco’s missing.” I’m not wild about Al Dimeola (too much mindless running up and down scales in place of actual improvisation), but John McLaughlin is legendary in both electric and acoustic contexts, and Paco De Lucia is bar none probably the best flamenco guitarist to ever play the instrument.

So, I’ve got to say, I was a little underwhelmed by the live date Friday Night In San Francisco when I finally got to hear it. To me, it sounds a lot like these guys are just having fun and not taking the concert all that seriously. They’re playing to the knuckleheads in the audience who hoot and holler every time one of the guitarists does something cute like reference the Pink Panther theme or play weely weely fast. How boring.

Still, with guitarists this great, there can’t help but be some high points.

One of those is Short Tales of the Black Forest, written by Chick Corea. It’s a wonderful tune, full of hummable melodies, ingenious harmonic passages, rhythmic changes and so on. Whoever arranged it for McLaughlin and Dimeola did a great job.

Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars: Viva la Danzarina, written by Al Dimeola, is lightweight stuff, but it has pleasant enough themes. Just don’t expect anything deep and you’ll be fine.

And finally, that’s the problem with Friday Night In San Francisco. It’s basically just a chop fest, with the guitarists performing stupid pet tricks for an audience of Neanderthals. With performers this skilled, would it have killed them to come up with more challenging material, like McLaughlin did with the first Shakti album?

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