Review: McLaughlin Di Meola Paco de Lucia Friday Night In San Francisco 2LP 45rpm ORG

Review: McLaughlin Di Meola Paco de Lucia Friday Night In San Francisco 2LP 45rpm ORG

Paco de Lucia passed away in February 2014 aged 66, victim of a heart attack. This was a very sad moment, we never want to see our idols go so soon, and Paco de Lucia was one of the most important names in Flamenco Music that he helped bring to a much wider audience, but not just that, he was an icon of sheer creativity and virtuosity for many musical quadrants ranging from Jazz to Classical Music.

For me, when I was a young teenager his name translated to something like “incredible guitar magic”, and some of my fondest memories from listening to music on my father’s audio system are from listening to Friday Night in San Francisco and feeling like I was right there in the audience with the performance happening live in front of me.

At the time my father had a quite impressive complete Quad 66 separates system with a pair of Quad ESL-63 electrostatic speakers fitted with huge Gradient SW-63 subwoofers and specific cross-over unit, setup in a large windowed room with an amazing view over the Tagus River in Lisbon. What could be more romantic? Quad electrostatics, Lisbon and the Tagus? All music sounded amazing on that system and with that view, but some records made such an impression that they became deeply implanted in my mind and if I close my eyes for a moment I can still relive those moments and regain that sense of “being there” with that particular sound and view, and all those emotions.

This is one of my all time favorite records, and yes I admit I’ve spent most of my young life listening to this incredible performance on CD. Lucky for me, there is no bad sounding version of this recording on any format, it always sounds at least very good. But there was, of course, room for improvement, and this recording considered by many to be the absolute best acoustic guitar live performance ever recorded, certainly deserves the ultimate audiophile treatment.

Paco de Lucia was there in San Francisco with legendary guitar players John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola, each of them bringing different influences up on the stage but for me this was always Lucia’s night because it sounds to me like his vision infused the musical performance of the group with his particular Flamenco style in a way that makes it his own… and what a night it was! This is pure life and energy, attack and retreat, call and response, audience screams, large scale and micro detail, inventiveness and creativity together with the most unbelievable technical virtuosity, this recording is magic, pure sound illusionism for the soul.

It was described by jazz author and critic Walter Kolosky as “a musical event that could be compared to the Benny Goodman Band’s performance at Carnegie Hall in 1938 … it may be considered the most influential of all live acoustic guitar albums”. All the tracks except Guardian Angel were recorded live at The Warfield Theatre on 5 December 1980, in San Francisco; Guardian Angel was recorded at Minot Sound, in White Plains, New York.

I never felt like I needed anything better than my original release CD/LP, but when this ORG reissue mastered by Bernie Grundman was announced I was extremely curious to compare it to the original releases, and the latest SACD remaster. Boy, I was in for a big surprise…

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