Al Di Meola’s Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody doesn’t start really coming together until a few tracks into the album. The first couple tracks, “Siberiana” and “Paramour’s Lullaby,” set up the album by featuring the guitar and accordion as the highlights, yet they both drag on a little too long past the point of an introduction. It’s not until we get to “Michelangelo’s 7th Child” that we really see the two in concert with each other.
The rest of the tracks take the listener down a slow meandering ride surrounded by sounds of overly happy instruments in some far off vacation spot. It’s almost indistinguishable when one track ends and another begins.
The title track, “Radical Rhapsody,” features a more jazzy combination of guitar and piano which reminds the listener of some more traditional jazz sessions.
Two off-theme tracks, “Strawberry Fields” and “Over the Rainbow” feature inspired renditions with Di Meola on a sleazy-driven electric guitar.
Throughout the album, isolated riffs and incongruous melodic lines makes it sound at times more of a musical exercise between the accordion and guitar rather than a coherent song theme, which might be the actual goal, i.e. rhapsody. Aside from a few exceptions, I would call the majority of this album a collection of polished jam sessions.
Overall, Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody seems a perfect soundtrack to a sunny open-top drive down a Caribbean highway, or even an accompaniment to a Cirque du Soleil performance. However, as albums go, the tracks continually tease and drag on dancing around ideas, but rarely come together to grab onto a greater substance. Taken as a rhapsody, as the title suggests, the entire album does give you the sense that individual instruments play over a canvas of sound, sometimes coming together to create something larger, other times meddling by themselves in a corner.