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

WHS C-1003 William Ackerman It Takes A Year

WH 1003 It Takes a Year Ackerman
WH 1003 It Takes a Year Ackerman

Artist Current Web Site: http://williamackerman.com/music.html

Review

It Takes a Year is the second album by William Ackerman and the third issue on the Windham Hill label. Certainly the album is best known for introducing us to Ackerman’s most famous song “The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter.” There is much more to the album than the opening track – “It Takes a Year”, deftly transitions between fast-paced folk guitar songs and graceful, contemplative, almost melancholy studies.

Ackerman has said that “The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit” is about the feeling of innocence he had before his mother passed away when he was 12 – the same year he first took up the guitar. Just a beautiful piece – and one he would rerecord several times.

This is an album worth revisiting if you already own it, and sampling if you don’t. As the title implies a maturing and patience, “It Takes a Year” shows the key musical development of Ackerman with themes that he would work time and again over the next 30 years; Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter he has recorded at least twice more.

Produced again by Scott Saxon, the album was mastered by the legendary Stan Ricker. While not as consistent in sound as later albums, the recording still invites an intimate encounter with Ackerman’s guitar. Ackerman points out that one of the microphones he owns at Imaginary Road Studious is worth more than the entire recording budget for his first four albums, the sound is still quite good on the vinyl pressings, even if the steel strings sometimes show more of their metal than mettle.

Highly recommended.

Notably, this is the first Windham Hill album to use the ECM Records-inspired graphics that came to define the Windham Hill look.

I’ve been in touch with Scott Saxon and hope to report some additional details about the recording work he did on the early Windham Hill albums.

Credits

Side One

The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter, (3:38) 1975

Balancing, (3:35) 1975

The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit, (5:30) 1970

It Takes a Year, (4:52) 1976

Side Two

The Townshend Shuffle (4:27), 1970-1976

A Tribute To The Philosophy Of James Estell Bradley, (2:36) 1973

The Search for the Turtle’s Navel, (4:58) 1970

The Rediscovery Of Big Bug Creek, Arizona, (3:03) 1973

Liner Notes

  • Recorded at Mantra Studios, San Mateo, CA
  • Engineered and mixed by Scott Saxon
  • Mastered by Stan Ricker
  • Produced by Scott Saxon
  • Photography by Ron May
  • Design by Jay Watkins
  • All compositions by William Ackerman
  • All selections Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Pox 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • © (p) Windham Hill Records 1977

“Artists, I am told, are always searching for a new medium to explore. I honestly thought I had it, but it proved infeasible to lathe sound recordings into Tupperware. My apologies. The search goes on.”

William Ackerman 1977

Tunings and Tabs

Ackerman generously makes tunings for his songs available on his web site.

See “The Will Ackerman Collection” for selected song Tabs including “The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter”.