Of all the great vinyl that I listened to as a kid, this album was the epitome of that crackly, hissy but markedly vibrant set of experiences.
By now, the cover art and the font here seem trite and dated, but the music captured on this inspirational night in 1981 is by the far the highest level acoustic performance I've yet heard recorded. Each player comes through on his individual channel with John McLaughlin playing from the center.
Sure, there are probably a handful of classical guitarists out there who could top the technical skills of any of these three men; however, I'm confident that never before had three towering talents all converged for one evening at the vortex of style, technique and passion, leaving the crowd in wild ecstasy while leaving behind a record of rhythmic and melodic nonpareil. These guys were flamenco/classical rockstars at the time and it's easy to discern the source of their legend as you listen to each serendipitous mounting of theme and improvisation, each phrase that seems to threaten to take the whole ensemble irrevocably over some precipice of control and reason. The result is a tension-filled frenzy of fingers and breath and chills that leaves the listener enraptured and jealous of the audience on that inspired night in San Francisco.
Check out Walter Kolosky's article about this historic recording at AllAboutJazz.com