The secrets behind Al di Meola's tone on Race with Devil on Spanish Highway

(Image credit: Dick Barnatt/Redferns/Getty Images)

Over the course of 37 minutes and six songs, Al Di Meola explored a dazzling variety of styles (jazz, flamenco, Latin, hard rock) and sounds (various electric and acoustic textures) on his second solo album, Elegant Gypsy. The album has become a jazz-rock fusion classic with guitarists, thanks to two standout tracks: the blazing acoustic duet with Paco de Lucia - Mediterranean Sundance - and the breakneck proto-shred masterpiece Race with Devil on Spanish Highway, which rocked harder than most metal circa the album’s 1977 release date.

Like many rock guitarists of that era (and unlike most of his jazz guitar peers), Di Meola favored a Gibson Les Paul and Marshall amp for his electric rig, using a 1971 Les Paul Custom customized with DiMarzio Dual Sound pickups and coil-tapping switches and a 50-watt Marshall half stack to generate the appropriately heavy distorted tones for Race with Devil. 

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.