Category Archives: duo

WH-1027 Mark Isham Vapor Drawings

WH 1027 Mark Isham Vapor Drawings
WH 1027 Mark Isham Vapor Drawings

WH-1027 Mark Isham Vapor Drawings

Review

Vapor Drawings is the first album by Mark Isham, the 27th Windham Hill release, and the first electronic release on the label.

“Vapor Drawings was my first solo recording, my first adventure into a large-scale electronic music record. I played almost all the instruments on it — in fact everything except the drums. It was a big challenge and took a lot of hard work. I see it as the first of a series of records that experimented with this genre (whatever that genre might be considered – somewhere between New Age and Fusion) the second of which was Tibet, the third of which was Castalia.”

–Mark Isham

While it is possible to hear the echoes of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis in Vapor Drawings, it stands on its own as a clear new vision of what could be done with electronic music. Humor, pathos, and inspiration are all heard throughout the album, all with lucid orchestral colors.

There is so much to say about Mark Isham that I’ve held off on this review for a long time. Mark has gone on to become one of the most effective and most prolific film score composers in history, while continuing to make beautiful music across genres. I love jazz, I love new age (at least as defined by Windham Hill); I love English art rock (David Sylvian, Brian Eno, Dead Can Dance). I can think of only one person who has crossed all of these boundaries: Mark Isham. In the end, I must send you on your own journey of the man’s work. http://www.isham.com can keep you busy all day long.

Regardless, Windhaming is intended to document the works of Windham Hill on their own merit. Fortunately, Vapor Drawings is as much of a masterpiece as a standalone album as it is the opening album in Mark Isham’s oevre. The music percolates, hums, and marches toward majestic peaks. Coming so early in Isham’s career, one could imagine that he was simply trying new styles in electronic music. But the effect is that the listener is rewarded by a walk through many possibilities.

It probably helps to like electronic music to truly love Vapor Drawings, but the classical underpinnings, organic drums, and emotional appeal give the album a draw much broader than “electronic” would imply. Also, the synthesizers used continue to sound fresh – include any of these tracks on an “ambient” sampler and you would be hard pressed to detect that they are 30 years old.

By the time Vapor Drawings came out, Ackerman had built such a trust level in his taste with Windham Hill, that I bought the album based solely on label and instrumentation. While the later “Interior” albums felt like synthesizer works, “Vapor Drawings” simply felt like music.

The wonderful “Many Chinas” was originally recorded by Isham on the 1976 Rubisa Patrol album (ECM 1081) with Art Lande, Bill Douglass and Glenn Cronkhite. Mark’s influence and horn playing is felt throughout that release, and anyone interested in his early work should seek it out. One of the joys of the Windhaming project is meeting people and learning more about artists I love. It was Record Store Day 2013 that I walked into Grooveyard Records in Oakland CA, and mentioned the Windhaming project to Rick Ballard. Turns out he was the original ECM importer before ECM had a major label partner in the US. A quick run through his bins yielded the Rubisa Patrol gem.

Track Listings

Side One

 

 

  1. Many Chinas 4:05
  2. Sympathy and Acknowledgement 8:17
  3. On the Threshold of Liberty 7:27
  4. When Things Dream 2:43

Side Two

 

  1. Raffles in Rio 4:38
  2. Something Nice for My Dog 2:49
  3. Men Before the Mirror 6:07
  4. Mr. Moto’s Penguin (who’d be an Eskimo’s wife?) 3:18
  5. In the Blue Distance 4:06

 

Samples

Many Chinas

On the Threshold of Liberty

Raffles in Rio

Something Nice for my Dog

Men Before the Mirror

Mr. Moto’s Penguin (who’d be an Eskimo’s wife?)

In the Blue Distance


Credits / Liner Notes

Mark Isham: Synthesizers, trumptes, flugelhorn, piano, soprano sax, Steiner EVI, electronic percussion

Peter Van Hooke: Snare drum and electronic percussion

  • All compositions by Mark Isham
  • All selections Windham Hill Music (BMI) except “Many Chinas” published by ECM Records Verlag, GMBH (GEMA)
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill REcords
  • Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • PO Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305

(c) (p) Windham Hill Records 1983

Distributed by A&M Records

WH-1027

Research Notes:

On the Threshold of Liberty is named after the Rene Magritte painting:

Magritte on the threshold of Liberty
Magritte on the threshold of Liberty

It’s a pleasure to see that portions of Vapor Drawings were recorded in the same studio as Thomas Dolby’s “The Golden Age of Wireless.”

On Photographer Larry Bell’s work, which was used for the cover art:

Two large bodies of work on paper, Bell’s “vapor drawings” and the more recent “mirage works”, are also the products of Bell’s use of thin film deposition technology. The vapor drawings are created by using PET film to mask paper sheets, which are then coated. Bell describes the advantages of this process and medium:

Masking the paper with thin PET film strips to expose areas related to the shape of the page plane enabled me to generate images spontaneously. This work gave me a conscious glimpse of the inherent power of spontaneity and improvisation. The work happened intuitively…In a short amount of time I created a number of interesting pieces. I liked this way of working. It was different from tediously coping with the weight and risk of glass. In my mind, I was investigating improbable visuals using improbable means.[7]

The mirage pieces, on the other hand, are collages constructed out of pieces of coated materials that are then arranged and laminated. As Bell says, “I colored sheets of various paper materials, strips of PET film, and laminate film. Then I fused them to canvases and stretched them. Tapestries of woven light differentials resulted.” [7]

You can see more of Larry Bell’s work at Artsy

WH-1026 Windham Hill Artists An Evening with Windham Hill Live

WH 1026 evening with windham hill live
WH 1026 evening with windham hill live

WH-1026 An Evening with Windham Hill Live featuring George Winston, Alex deGrassi,  William Ackerman, Michael Hedges, Liz Story, Scott Cossu, Darol Anger, Chuck Greenberg

Review

Truly one of the great Windham Hill albums of all time, “An Evening with Windham Hill” features the classic Windham Hill artists at artistic peak of the label. While Ackerman, Winston, de Grassi continue to perform and record, often with even greater artistry than here, this album represents a clarity of vision and cohesion of styles that places it at the pinnacle of Windham Hill’s output.

Relaxed but uplifting, complex but with clarity, An Evening with Windham Hill is a required recording for any fan of the label.

Most telling about the label overall is Alex de Grassi’s introduction to Turning: Turning Back where he recounts how people tell him that they play the music at weddings and births – but “it’s really just about a trip Philadelphia.” de Grassi was writing about everyday places and moods – but touched a special chord with his fans.

Track Listings

Side One 19:59

Rickover’s Dream 4:30

  • Michael Hedges – Guitar
  • Composed by Michael Hedges
  • Michael Hedges Music (BMI)

Turning: Turning Back 9:00

  • Alex deGrassi – Guitar
  • Composed by Alex deGrassi

Clockwork 6:23

  • Alex deGrassi – Guitar
  • Chuck Greenberg – Lyricon
  • Darol Anger – Violin
  • Michael Manring – Bass
  • Michael Spiro – Percussion
  • Composed by Alex deGrassi
  • Tropo Music (BMI)

Side Two 22:01

Spare Change 5:29

  • Michael Hedges – Guitar
  • Liz Story – Piano
  • Michael Manring – Bass
  • Composed by Michael Hedges
  • Michael Hedges Music (BMI)

Visiting 4:48

  • Will Ackerman – Guitar
  • Chuck Greenberg – Lyricon
  • Michael Manring – Bass
  • Composed by Will Ackerman

Hawk Circle 5:10

  • Will Ackerman – Guitar
  • George Winston – Piano
  • Michael Hedges – Guitar
  • Composed by Will Ackerman

Reflections/Lotus Feet 6:25

  • George Winston – Piano
  • Reflections Composed by George Winston
  • Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Lotus Feet Composed by John McLaughlin
  • Warner Tamerlane Publishing Corp. and Chinmoy Music Inc. (BMI)

Samples

Reflections/Lotus Feet

Liner Notes and Credits

  • Produced by William Ackerman
  • AlexDe Grassi
  • Steven Miller

On October 9th, 1982, a group of ten Windham Hill musicians gathered for two shows at the Berklee Performance Center, Boston, Massachusetts. It was during those two shows that these recordings were made. The success of the Berklee Performance Center shows made it inevitable that other Windham Hill Evenings would follow, including Carnegie Hall, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, the Wax Museum in Washington, DC, and Symphony Hall in Boston to date.

  • William Ackerman
  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Engineered and Mixed by Steven Miller
  • Recorded by the Fedco Audio Labs Remote Truck
  • Remote Recording Crew – Bill Straus (Crew Chief), Nick Gutfreund and Bob Dickson.
  • Mixed at Different Fur Studios, San Francisco
  • Assistant Engineer – Don Mack
  • Original half-speed mastering by Bernie Grundman, A&M
  • Matrix and Pressings by The Pressing Plant, Irvine, CA
  • Cover photo by Jerry Lukowicz
  • Design by Anne Ackerman Robinson

All selections published by Windham Hill Music (BMI) except where noted. KEF speakers were used for audio monitoring and referencing on this recording.

Thanks to Steve Backer, Fred Taylor, Bill Strauss, Sue Auclair, Eric Jackson, Ron Della Chiesa and Al Goldman.

  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305

On the Threshold of Liberty – Mark Isham Independence Day

On the Threshold of Liberty

Promotional Single WS-17528 Mark Isham from the album Vapor Drawings WH-1027

Happy Fourth of July to our American readers. In honor of Independence Day, Windhaming presents Mark Isham’s On the Threshold of Liberty.

Interestingly, this track exists as the only 45 RPM Windham Hill 12″ promotional single I have ever found. See the comments below for a few more that the inimitable Caitlyn Martin found.

Liner notes and credits below the video.

On the Threshold of Liberty

 

Liner Notes:

In a decade where we have been bombarded with countless numbers of cold and mechanical recordings of synthesizer, it is like a breath of fresh air to work iwth an artist who is capable of utilizing the synthesizer to convey a more human perspective. Mark Isham is such an artist. Just looking at some of the musicians with whom he has worked gives you an idea of his depth and diversity: Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, Gil Evans, Horace Silver, the Beach Boys, the Oakland Symphony, Esther Phillips, and Dave Liebman. And to round all this out, this past year he composed and performed the musical score to the new Carroll Ballard (the Black Stallion) film “Never Cry Wolf”.

This music has heart and it has soul — always a rarity, but an even more surprising feat considering that one man plays all the instruments  (there is a percussionist added on these two pieces). I am quite proud, along with Mark, to have given birth to this music. Hopefully if will fill your hearts with as much joy as it does mine.

Steven Miller
Producer, Vapor Drawings, Mark Isham
November 1983

Credits:

Mark Isham: Synthesizers, trumpets, flugelhorn, piano, soprano sax, Steiner EVI, electronic percussion.

Peter Van-Hooke: Snare drum and electronic percussion

  • Produced and engineered by Steven Miller
  • Recorded and mixed in London April-May 1983
  • All compositions by Mark Isham
  • On the Threshold of Liberty published by Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Many Chinas published by ECM Records Verlag GMBH (GEMA)
  • Design by Anne Ackerman Robinson
  • Cover image by Larry Bell “Vapor Drawing LDIF5”
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records(r)
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • (c) (p)Windham Hill Records 1983
  • All Rights Reservedd
  • Distributed by A&M Records