It’s true. I’m a Windham Hill fan.
This site is dedicated to the first 100 Windham Hill albums.
Like many, I started listening to Windham Hill because of the success of George Winston’s “Autumn” album. In 1981, I was a 15-year-old primarily listening to metal and post-punk, but had heard about Keith Jarrett and was open to acoustic music. Over time, I’ve collected most of the early Windham Hill albums simply because there’s always something to them. They’re contemplative, but not depressing. Relaxing, but not soporific. They sounded good on my home stereo, and on tinny cassette decks when I was a camp counselor in the Sierras. I’m from Northern California, and I think there’s something regional about the music – it’s especially good listening while driving along Highway 1 near Big Sur, or on rainy nights in a dorm room at UC Santa Cruz.
I’m John Dark, a Bay Area father, husband, music-lover, audiophile, gardener, and sales/marketing/public relations consultant. For years I was the lead marketer for a satellite phone service provider, and for innovative GPS communications products. Learn more about my professional life at http://www.linkedin.com/in/johndark
I wanted one place to share details about each album including liner notes, credits, and maybe a few thoughts on the album. Neither Amazon nor Wikipedia have a complete list of albums, and are often incomplete regarding liner notes. The other online discographies might have a (mostly) complete discography, but no notes on each album. This site is intended to be a place where a fan can find all of the details from the original albums in one place.
In the late 80’s I took a “Clapping for Credits” course (actually titled “American Popular Music” and strangely focussed on Billy Joel) while at UC Santa Cruz. A marketing rep from Windham Hill came down, played us Tibetan Monk throat singing, and told the story of how young Japanese couples would go off into the countryside with a cassette deck and play Windham Hill music while picnicking. They called it “Windhaming.” I’ve always thought that this was a brilliant story because it was so over the top – a whole movement of stylish young Japanese couples out picnicking just because of the music! I wasn’t crazy about the very high-profile marketing that Windham Hill was doing, as the brand seemed to appeal more and more to middle-aged yuppies than my wanna-be hipster self, and yet for a moment I fervently believed that Windham Hill would spawn a generation of Japanese who could not live without fresh air, Bento Boxes and Windham Hill.
For the love of Vinyl
While the recording quality of Windham Hill albums varies, the very best sound fantastic. They all sound better on an excellent vinyl setup. Most of the original CD issues sounded tinny, and most of the re-issues suffer from the same dynamic compression as all newer CD’s. Try listening to Michael Hedges’ “Aerial Boundaries” or to “Live at Montreaux” on a quality vinyl setup and you will be impressed. Indeed many of the same techniques were used to produce the Windham Hill albums as the much vaunted Mobile Fidelity releases of the time.
If you like Windham Hill, then you’ll love…
Windham Hill Artists on other labels.
Of course, George Winston continues to release music on the Windham Hill imprint. But Liz Story, Alex De Grassi, Philip Aaberg and many others continue to release music on other labels. It’s worth following their discography.
William Ackerman’s current works
Will’s recordings as an artist and producer, and recordings made at his Imaginary Road Studios.
Ackerman continues releasing great music, and has produced many award-winning albums including new releases from Lawrence Blatt, Rocky Fretz and Kori Linae Carothers.
MA Recordings – A well known label in audiophile circles, there are many parallels between Windham Hill and MA Recordings. Both are the vision of an artist who founded his own label. Both are dedicated to the best recording quality of their time, and both primarily focus on acoustic instrumental music. MA Recordings is more experimental and so it’s rare to find someone who loves every pressing. Start with their first release, Todd Garfinckle’s “Prayers Wishes Illusions.” It alone is reason to check out this label; the album is a thoughtful, positive but not sappy, intelligent but fun, just plain lovely work that stands one of my all-time greats. From there, try any of the Bruce Stark recordings, and then explore the other samples on the site.
ECM This European label was around before Windham Hill and after. They put out some great music, and some very tedious music. If you’ve never heard of ECM, you should check out the top-selling Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny albums, which are on ECM.
Additionally, there’s an entire universe of ambient music from artists like Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie, Brian Eno, David Sylvian, and John Foxx that’s essential, and a whole new generation of electronica artists who make great music nothing like Windham Hill, but I find serving the same musical purpose as Windham Hill – folks like Boards of Canada and Bonobo.
As Duke Ellington said, “I like only one kind of music. The good kind.”
Great music deserves a great stereo
There are a few high-end audio manufacturer’s that really help you get closer to the music. If you like good acoustic music, check out some of my favorite brands:
And, if you’re in the LA area, visit my friend Laurence Lau at GNP AudioVideo for advice on all matters audio.
Other Windham Hill resources and discographies
- Japanese Windham Hill fan site http://homepage.mac.com/tupichan/WindhamHill/Discography.html
- A Very Good Windham Hill Discography – http://www.bsnpubs.com/aandm/windhamhill.html
- A site dedicated to the A&M distribution years –http://www.onamrecords.com/Windham_Hill.html
I need to thank Michael Williams for his outstanding American Fashion/Design blog A Continuous Lean. http://www.acontinuouslean.com. Michael has a point of view, good taste and a blithe way with words. I don’t know him, but I’ve been following his blog for the past two years and it’s really refocussed my interest in design, and showed what a great blog can be.
Thanks to Bob Westal for his ongoing friendship and complete inspiration as a blogger. Bob really puts his heart into the excellent blog dedicated to film critique and politics called Forward To Yesterday http://www.forwardtoyesterday.com