WHS C-1004 Alex De Grassi Turning:Turning Back

Original Release Date: 1978

Current Artist Web Site: http://www.degrassi.com/

Review

Turning: Turning Back is Alex De Grassi’s first album and the fourth album issued on the Windham Hill label. This is a gorgeous solo acoustic guitar recording. In many ways it sets the tone for the remainder of what I consider to be the high period of the Windham Hill label.

De Grassi’s playing is technically deft, without being showy, creating a sound that flows and bubbles like water in a rocky brook, or sparkles like sunlight on aspen leaves – always engaging and thoughtful, and consistently filled with beauty and a positive energy.

This is a defining Windham Hill outing, but unfortunately not currently in print or available digitally.

Regarding other early Windham Hill releases, De Grassi says they are “Out of print and owned by Windham Hill/BMG. I can’t legally make them available. we’ve tried unsuccessfully to license them back. So, i might re-record them, but I can’t make them available as a digital download–sorry. Perhaps they will become available as individual pieces as downloads from Windham Hill,”

The recording quality is faultless with De Grassi’s guitar close-miked at the same San Mateo studio where William Ackerman’s first albums were recorded. Mastering by Stan Ricker and pressing by RTI of Camarillo makes the vinyl pressings similar to many Mobile Fidelity audiophile reissues.

In his Innerviews interview, De Grassi says of the album: “Turning: Turning Back really reflects a very personal approach to playing guitar and music in general,” he said. “People couldn’t put their finger on the genre. It came out before people called anything New Age. There were guitar influences from the British Isles like John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. I was listening to a lot of Keith Jarrett’s solo piano stuff at the time too. I really admired his playing and solo improvisations that cut across a lot of different lines and styles. Although it was jazz, it had a lot of qualities that were indefinable and indescribable. I think that was a very encouraging thing.”

Below is a terrific audio-only interview which begins with Alex talking about learning guitar and some of the things he brought to the recording of “Turning: Turning Back”.

Credits / Track Listing

Side One

  1. Turning (2:50) 1976
  2. Swordfish (2:53) 1977
  3. Luther’s Lullaby (2:49) 1975
  4. Blood and Jasmine (4:29) 1977
  5. Window (4:20) 1976

Side Two

  1. Children’s Dance (2:38) 1974
  2. Waltz and March of the Rhinoceri (2:40) 1975
  3. Alpine Medley (2:16) 1971-73
  4. Autumn Song (3:25) 1975
  5. Turning Back (5:22) 1977

Liner Notes

  • Recorded at Mantra Studios, San Mateo, CA
  • Engineered and mixed by Scott Saxon
  • Mastered by Stan Ricker
  • Pressings by Record Technology Inc.
  • Produced by Scott Saxon
  • Photography by Ron May
  • Design by Jay Watkins
  • All compositions by Alex De Grassi
  • All selections Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • © (p) Windham Hill Records 1978

25 thoughts on “WHS C-1004 Alex De Grassi Turning:Turning Back”

    1. @jshollis2012: Would love to know more. I consider it borderline criminal for music this special to locked away.

    2. Hi, are you able to help me out with a digital copy of Turning, Turning Back? I have the LP, but it would really be nice to be able to listen outside of the house, too… Thanks!

      1. Hi lkchse – At first I was annoyed by your question – why ask me for an illegal copy where the artist doesn’t benefit in any way? Just buy directly from Alex here: http://www.degrassi.com/recordings/ Then a quick web search showed that there is no way for the artist to make any money on this. So, unfortunately, I still can’t help you… but I understand the plight. You can buy the CD off of Discogs or Amazon used for about $35. You can probably find it in a used bin somewhere for $8 to $10. Best of luck, it’s an album worthy of owning.

        1. @johnnydark – did you even try your suggestions? Amazon – no results found for CD. Discogs – no results found for CD. Let’s try Ebay – 108 results for Alex DeGrassi but ZERO for this CD. It is not sitting in some bin somewhere, it has been out of print for 20 years! It is a collectors item with a price to match. You obviously have no clue how long some of us have been looking for this.

          And if you READ the post you are responding to, the poster ALREADY OWNS THE LP (like many of us).

          1. Hi Gordon,

            Thanks for your questions. Firstly, I’m glad there are so many of us who love this music, though I would appreciate if you go easy on the caps. It’s a terrific album. Unfortunately, I don’t own a digital copy. To answer your question: Yes, I tried my suggestions before I suggested them.

            Discogs seller “allnighterkid” is currently (8/26/15) selling the CD for 29 Euros, or about $33.40. http://www.discogs.com/sell/release/1770694?ev=rb

            Amazon US is currently selling used copies starting at $37.99. http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B000000NET/ref=tmm_acd_used_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=used&qid=1440607871&sr=8-1

            Those prices aren’t cheap, or even within reach, for some people, but I often pay around that price for Blue Note re-issues as the originals are usually way out of my price range. Plus, if the cheapest copies sell, then the next prices go up pretty fast. I know not everyone can afford it, but I’m not going to decide that for every reader, so I suggested it anyway.

            eBay is a waiting game, with constantly changing stock. Regardless, I didn’t mention eBay as it’s my last choice because I’ve found the quality of the buyers and sellers to be very inconsistent.

            I am luckier (and more persistent) than most. I live in the Bay Area where Windham Hill was hugely popular, and whenever I travel (about once a month) I hit as many local record stores as I can. I have seen copies of Turning:Turning Back on CD in the used bins over the years, often very cheap, but generally about $8-10. If I see it again, I’ll pick it up and make it available here.

            I will admit that I read the comment and assumed it was directed to me as the creator of this site. I get email whenever there’s a new comment on any of my posts, and just assumed the message was directed to me. It wasn’t. It was directed to someone who says they own the CD.

            Separately, I just emailed Alex to see what he recommends (doubt he’ll have anything, but you never know). I’ll also email Adventure Music and Valley Entertainment who are both very active in re-issuing Windham Hill on CD. That won’t be a quick solution, but if they reprint the titles, you’ll be able to get it more easily and affordably.

  1. @johnnydark – Yes, my reply was indeed to @jshollis2012 who made the offer initially. I own the LP, and love it dearly. I’d be more than willing to share the imprint information for proof of ownership. As a current owner of the album, I’d prefer to not spend another $35-40 just to have a digital version of what I already own.

    In regards to buying directly from the website, aside from the artist not making money on that, which I cannot speak to, you’ll notice that “Turning, Turning Back” is not available there. And as I’m sure you well know, searching “used bins” for an OOP 1986 WH CD could take years.

    Thanks, anyway.

    1. Yup, I thought it was to me, otherwise I would have replied differently or not at all. Regardless, I really do see Turning:Turning Back every now and then, but I’m in the Bay Area where all of WH sold in large numbers. If I find another copy, I’ll pick it up and offer it here.

  2. Guys,

    email me at jdcollier at gmx.com and I will give you a download link to get a lossless FLAC copy of this. I found a copy on Amazon on July 13, 2013 for $9.99 still wrapped. I am please to share it with whomever. It’s no longer available and and apparently there is no interest to reissue it.

    1. I had a brief email exchange with Alex this morning, asking if he knew of any place to buy the album so that he would benefit. The answer is not right now, but I pointed out the recent reissues on Adventure Music (which is apparently owned, in part by WH stablemate Mike Marshall). Hopefully he will find a way to get the album back in print.

  3. I apologize to those who asked for this album a month ago. I forgot to check the box for replies. I just happen to stroll over here for a look.

  4. Turning: Turning Back is best known for the astonishing 2-part title track which opens and then closes the record. Turning: Turning Back is just a lovely piece of music, with a middle section that explores the notes and then the song is resolved by a final minute of music which the listener has been waiting for, without knowing it. Alex, in concert has said that this song is about a trip he took to Philadelphia, but as we know true music comes from the heart. Alex was a cousin of Will Ackerman and Will has often said how much he admired Alex’s playing when he was growing up.

    There is not a weak song on this record, though the others are less distinctive.

  5. I have been able to obtain all of De Grassi’s classics throughout the years, yet this one cd has always eluded me. If any mp3s are made available, please let me know. Thanks

  6. If anyone is actually interested in owning a mint copy of their own Amazon does have two sellers selling for $36.99 and $39.99 respectively. Seems a little high but after listening to it the monetary loss might subside.

  7. I get tons of requests for a copy of this CD but I’ve never thought about what I am about to suggest. First of all, if you do have an LP copy I can certainly help out with a lossless copy in FLAC for archiving. On the other hand, if you don’t own a copy in any format still consider getting a copy from me and sending Alex a check paying for his labor for a 34 minute set of well written tunes. So he doesn’t the rights to distribute them but you could pay him for playing them. What do you think? That might have been what I would’ve done if he’d take the offer.

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