Tag Archives: Folk

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

WH 1025 George Winston December

WH 1025 George Winston December WHS C-1025
WH 1025 George Winston December WHS C-1025

George Winston December

Comments

Frozen branches overhead, snowy drives in the evening, and the quiet of a snow covered landscape. Winston invokes all of these on his landmark album December. While Winston named his compositions after moments in time – months or seasons, he was really playing music about places – creeks, and trees, passes and roads in Montana and the high-plains and prairies.

The music holds up year-round thanks to its simplicity and beauty. Even the carols are stripped down enough that they can be enjoyed even as we endure the heat of a July afternoon. In his discography, December stands as a crowd-pleaser – neither as resonant and redolent as Autumn, nor as cold and brittle as the first side of Winter Into Spring. December is an album that inspired a million insipid imitators, yet always maintains a beautiful and thoughtful poise; relaxed, yet energetic.

December is often incorrectly identified as the album that made Windham Hill Records a crossover success. That honor goes to George Winston’s Autumn, which sold millions of copies and was the breakthrough success for the label. That being said, December was another high-tide mark for the label, and laid the groundwork for the extraordinarily popular Winter Solstice series.

It is curious that with all of the detailed credits, there is no listing of which brand of piano is played by  by George Winston. According to engineer Harn Soper, Winston used a Yamaha grand for Autumn. Based on the sound, I would imagine it was another Yamaha for this recording. It should also be noted that in the recoding of Autumn, Winston would indeed drop and pickup in mid-song, only to be edited together later. This saves an enormous amount of time during the recording section, and I certainly can’t hear it in the recordings, which is remarkable given that Winston will often hold the sustain pedal down throughout an entire song, and the reverberations must undoubtably be different as he plays through a track different times.

WH 1025 George Winston December Back WHS C-1025
WH 1025 George Winston December Back WHS C-1025

Track Listing

Side One: 20:56

  • Thanksgiving 4:04
  • Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head 2:40 – An Appalachain carol of the late Eighteen Hundreds, Collected by the eminent folklorist John Jacob Niles.
  • Joy 3:13 – Inspired by an arrangement by David Qualey
  • Prelude 1:16
  • Carol of the Bells – A Nineteenth Century Ukranian carol.
  • Night 5:47
  • — Part One: Snow 1:51
  • — Part Two: Midnight 1:56
  • — Part Three: Minstrels 2:00
  • Minstrels was inspired by St. Basil’s Hymn, a traditional Greek Children’s New Years’s Carol based upon a rendition by Malcolm Dalglish.


Side Two: 18:18

  • Variations on the Kanon by Johann Pachelbel 5:21 – Composed circa 1699, the Kanon was originally an organ piece.
  • The Holly and the Ivy 4:52 – An Eighteenth Century English carol based upon an earlier French carol.
  • Some Children See Him 3:43 – Composed in 1951 by jazz trumpeter Alfred S. Burt (1921-1954), Some Children See Him was one of fifteen carols written as gifts for friends. The piece was originally a song with lyrics by Wilha Hutson expressing the universal love of children.
  • Peace 4:02

Samples

Thanksgiving

Prelude

Carol of the Bells

Night, Part Three: Minstrels

Variations on the Kanon (Live)

The Holly and the Ivy

Peace

Credits

  • Recorded in September and October of 1982 at Different Fur Recording, San Francisco, CA
  • Engineered by Steven Miller
  • Second Engineer on the Steven Miller sessions: Karen Kirsch
  • Engineering by Karen Kirsch on Carol of the Bells and Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel.
  • Half-Speed Mastering by Jack Hunt of JVC Cutting Center
  • Matrix and Pressing by Record Technology Inc., Camarillo, CA
  • Photos by Greg Edmonds
  • Design by Anne and Will Ackerman
  • Thanksgiving, Prelude, Snow, Midnight and Peace composed by George Winston and published by Windham Hill Music BMI.
  • Some Children See Him composed by A. S. Burt and published by Hollis Music Inc. BMI.
  • All other compositions are traditional and in the public domain.
  • Special Thanks to Steven Miller and Cathy Econom for their valuable contributions in production.

Liner Notes

This recording was mande direct to two-track using a Studer A 80 VU MK III half-inch recorder at thirty inches per second. No noise reductin was employed. KEF speakers were used for audio monitoring and referencing on this recording.

There is a great wealth of traditional and contemporary music to draw from in doing an album for the winter season. These four albums have been most inspirational to me in conceiving of this album and in doing albums for the seasons.

Thanks to Doc Bochenek, Larry Boden, Mario Cassetta, Janea Chadwick, Megan Corwin, John Creger, George Cromarty, Jane Crosier, Alex de Grassi, Melissa Dufffy, Sylvan Grey, Howard Johnston, Gail Kennedy, Jerrol Kimmel, Silvia Kohan, Marin Moon, Steve Reich, Bola Sete, Sari Spieler, Liz Story, Marie Winchester

  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • (c) (p) Windham Hill Records 1982

WHS C-1012 George Winston Autumn

WH 1012 Autum George Winston

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

George Winston’s “Autumn” page: http://www.georgewinston.com/recordings/01934-11610-2.php

Review

“Autumn” is the second album by George Winston, and the twelfth album released by Windham Hill. This is the breakthrough release that propelled Windham Hill from small, passionate “folk” label to genre-defining, multi-platinum selling label, and for good reason.

In context of the label’s development, this was really just the first album with crossover appeal – Winston’s December and later, the Winter Solstice albums brought Windham Hill more and more into mainstream consciousness.

Autumn found an audience who had loved Keith Jarrett’s enduringly popular The Koln Concert from 1976, and wanted more. Indeed , there’s a fair resemblance in mood, artistry and overall feel. But where Jarrett was improvising, Winston wrote densely rich compositions that drew from folk, rock and classical influences into something new. Moods shift and tempos vary – giving  life to the otherwise serious nature of the compositions. Over the last 30 years Winston has continued developing his performances of most of the pieces here to great success. Few are the artists who can reinvent such iconic performances into something significantly better than the original, but Winston does it. Or maybe I’ve simply listened to the album to death – it’s been such a regular companion of mine that it’s difficult to find anything new in it. However, if you have only ever had a passing experience with Autumn, consider this an essential recording that will reward revisiting.

Like Alex De Grassi, Winston writes music that is meant to evoke a place. That he succeeds brilliantly is evidenced by the myriad people who post YouTube videos of snowy roads, high-def landscapes, and mountain creeks to the soundtrack of Autumn. For Winston, it’s Montana itself that’s the muse. Sure the albums have seasonal titles, but it’s the season as experienced in Montana.

Comments

If you have thoughts or experiences about this album, or have questions about its recording, please leave a comment, share a memory, or ask a question in the comments section below.

Track Listing

Side One: September (26:22)

  • Colors/Dance 10:25
  • Woods 6:47
  • Longing/Love 9:10

Side Two: October (20:16)

  • Road 4:14
  • Moon 7:44
  • Sea 2:42
  • Stars 5:36

Recorded Jun 19 & 20, 1980

Samples

First, visit the Dancing Cat (George Winston) YouTube page featuring “Woods”. It’s a pleasure to hear a new performance of this song.

  • Colors/Dance 10:25

  • Woods 6:47
  • Longing/Love 9:10
  • Road 4:14
  • Moon 7:44
  • Stars 5:36

Credits

  • All Compositions by George Winston
  • Al Selections Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388 Stanford CA 94305
  • © (P) Windham Hill Records 1980

Liner Notes from the 20th Anniversary Edition

SEPTEMBER

1. Colors/Dance (10:25)

Inspired by the blazing yellow cottonwoods of Miles City and Billings, Montana, where I mainly grew up.

The middle section of improvisation over two chords was inspired by the great band The Doors (Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore and the late Jim Morrison [1943-1971]), particularly the improvisation on two chords in the instrumental section ofLight My Fire from their first album in 1967, THE DOORS (Elektra). This section was also inspired by the modal improvisation over different sets of two chords by the late, great saxophonist John Coltrane (1926-1967). This style of improvisation appears in the middle of Coltrane’s version of My Favorite Things from the 1960 album of the same name (which also inspired The Doors) and his version of Greensleeves from the 1961 recording THE COMPLETE AFRICA/BRASS SESSIONS (Impulse!). Another inspiration was the Coltrane-influenced version by the great jazz organist Jimmy Smith, from his 1965 album ORGAN GRINDER SWING (Verve). I was also inspired by a similar improvisation by the late, great composer/guitarist Frank Zappa on his song Black Napkins, especially from hearing him play it live in 1975. He recorded it several times, including on his albums MAKE A JAZZ NOISE HERE (Rykodisc), FRANK ZAPPA PLAYS THE MUSIC OF FRANK ZAPPA––A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE (available from the family site at www.zappa.com), YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON STAGE ANYMORE VOL. 6 (Rykodisc) and ZOOT ALLURES (Rykodisc). His music has been very inspirational to me in general, especially his 1969 instrumental album HOT RATS (Rykodisk).

The Doors’ first album, which is like one long song from the beginning to the end, is the album that most inspired AUTUMN, which I recorded thirteen years later in 1980. Of all the composers whose music I love to interpret, The Doors’ and Jim Morrison’s songs have taken the longest for me to make them sound how I want—some have taken 34 years. I now play ten Doors songs at the solo piano dances I am currently doing, and I do a solo piano version of one of Jim Morrison’s songs, Bird of Prey, that he sang a cappella on his poetry album, AN AMERICAN PRAYER (Elektra). Jim Morrison has inspired and influenced my playing more than any other vocalist. (The Doors’ official website is www.thedoors.com.)

When I play this song live I now play it as a medley with Tamarack Pines, the song that begins my album FOREST. Colors/Dancewas composed in 1979.

2. Woods (6:47)

Also inspired by the trees in Miles City, Montana, which was built around the Yellowstone River in Eastern Montana. Composed in 1974.

3. Longing/Love (9:10)

Composed in 1975


OCTOBER

4. Road (4:14)

Composed in 1971

5. Moon (7:44)

The second half is influenced by traditional Japanese koto music. When I play this live I now play it with Lights in the Sky from the FOREST album. The first half was composed in 1973, and the second half was composed in 1979.

6. Sea (2:42)

Particularly influenced by The Doors. The introduction is inspired by the late, great guitarist and composer John Fahey (1939-2001). Composed in 1973.

7. Stars (5:36)

Inspired by composer Dominic Frontiere’s great soundtracks for the first year of the television series THE OUTER LIMITS from 1962-1963, some of which are on the soundtrack album THE OUTER LIMITS ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK (Crescendo Records).

Also inspired by Russian composer Aram Khachaturian’s (1903-1978) Adagio, from the Gayaneh ballet suite of 1942 (which was prominently used in the soundtrack of the film 2001), and by Lullaby, from the same suite. Composed in 1973.


Produced by William Ackerman
Recorded June 19 & 20, 1980
Engineered by Harn Soper and Russell Bond (Stars)
Mastered by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood, CA
Cover photo by Ron May
Design by William Ackerman

All pieces composed by George Winston
All selections published by Imaginary Road Music/Dancing Cat Music (BMI)

Special thanks to Henry Roeland Byrd (the late Professor Longhair), Thomas “Fats” Waller, the late Bola Sete, the late John Fahey, Alex deGrassi, John Creger, Steve Reich, Dominic Frontiere, Nels Cline, Russell Bond, Megan Corwin, the late Frank Zappa and the members of The Doors: Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore and the late Jim Morrison

  • Vinyl pressings released as WHS C-1012; WH 1012.
  • CD released as WD 1012
  • Also released on BASF Chrome Cassette.

Research Notes

George Winston lives in Santa Cruz, CA and owns Dancing Cat Records. Dancing Cat promotes George Winston and published Hawaiian slack-key guitar recordings and concerts.

From The Music Annex web site:

We built and finished our first room, Studio A, in the summer of 1976. The other rooms were started shortly after that and we’ve eventually ended up with 5 studio spaces, Studios A, B, C and a Mastering Suite, as well as our Studio D, a converted video sound stage with an audio control room attached.

Our location turned out to have benefits we didn’t realize would be so instrumental to our longevity till later on. Being located smack dab between San Francisco and San Jose has given us a unique blend of clients both in the music and the corporate/advertising world. Before the dawn of “Silicon Valley” started to rise in the early 80’s our forte was “quality analog recording of acoustic instruments”, and many musicians became privy to our prowess at capturing the essence of performance by not letting technology get in the way of the creative process… getting the recording right the first time… and knowing when to let the “tape” continue to roll.

Progressive record labels like Windham Hill and SUGO Music, companies that became known for their unique musical artists and progressive recording techniques, found their way to our door. All of the important, early Windham Hill records, when their signature sound was just being defined, were recorded here: Will Ackerman, Alex deGrassi, Michael Hedges, George Winston, Scott Cossu and many others.

WHS C-1010 Robbie Basho The Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar

Original Release Date: 1979

Current Artist Site: http://www.bluemomentarts.de/bma/rbasho/en/visions.html

Review

“The Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar” is the tenth Windham Hill release and the eleventh album by the artist. Because it varies somewhat stylistically from the direction that future Windham Hill albums would take, the label re-issued it under the “Lost Lake Arts” imprint as LL83.

Basho was a brilliant guitarist whose goal was to make the steel-string guitar an serious concert instrument. His work, more than others influenced William Ackerman as a guitarist. The music is admittedly and acquired taste for most, but repeated listenings will reward any who have interest in compelling and intense musicality.

Track Listing

Side One: 26:35

1. THE GRAIL AND THE LOTUS 6:36 – A Neo-Gothic construction for six string, combining East and West.

2 CATHEDRALS ET FLEUR DI LIS 7:00 – A 12th century French cathedral in the province with gardens, flowers and birds. Now comes a rainstorm, and hear the organ sounding within the church. After the rainstorm, doves flying from the cathedral windows, adn the immortal chimes.

3. PASHA II 6:33 – Islamic Hymn for the Goddess of the Rose

4. A STUDY FOR STEEL STRING 2:59 – Vivaldi and trumpets for six string guitar.

5. ACKERMAN SPECIAL 1:16 – German Rococo

6. APRES MIDI AMERICAN 1:56 – Nature Mood

Side Two: 24:42

1. VARIATIONS ON GRIEG 5:02 –  A romance for six string in C tuning (the Sun Tuning)

2. SCOTTISH RITES 4:38 – A study for 12-string thinking of Vaughan Williams

3. PAVAN INDIA 7:11 – A mini-raga for 6 string

4. VARIATIONS ON EZUMI 4:03 – A guitar piece based upon a them by Kemio Ito

5. VARIATIONS ON CLAIRE DE LUNE 3:36 No one can ever match the Claire de Lune by Presti and La Goya ( a husband and wife team on Nonesuch) but I thought this 12-string version was a good way to end the evening.

Credits

Coming Soon.

Liner Notes

It was in 1972 that I first heard Robbie Basho. Since that time I’ve been to hundreds of performances, but very few are as carved in my memory as that one. Only 50 or so people were in that tiny Berkeley rehearsal hall. I’d reviewed Robbie’s “Song of the Stallion” for Guitar Player Magazine, and he wanted me to hear hmi live. Frakly, I went to the concert out of courtesy. But I left a believer.

Robbie’s music has a way of totally captivating listeners, of enabling use to transcent our troubles, our daily concerns. We find ourselves in places we’ve perhaps never been, in times we probably never saw. WE get to experience those places and times, not with music that recreates bubbling brooks or galloping horses, but iwth performances that let us feel what Basho calls the “theatre” of America or India or generations poset or those to come.

The great classical guitarist, Andres Segovia, spent three decades before he was able to create a concert following for the solo guitar. Similarly, Robbie Basho is working to develop such an audience for the American steel string guitar. For nearly twenty years he has been touring the world to assimilate its diverse musical forms and instruments into his own approach toward the 6- and 12-string guitars. “My main desire,” he says, “is to establish the steel string as a concert instrument indigenous to America. To this end, Basho has refused to compromise his art in any way.

WHS C-1009 Alex De Grassi Slow Circle

Original Release Date: 1979

Alex De Grassi Web Site: http://degrassi.com/

Review

“Slow Circle” is Alex De Grassi’s second album and the ninth album released on Windham Hill Records. For this album, Ackerman commissioned liner notes by Tom Wheeler, which I will only second here because they so perfectly capture this album. See the full piece below.

The mood is classic Windham Hill. Where Ackerman tries to capture a mood directly, De Grassi writes songs to capture a sense of place: rural, but not necessarily grand places with natural beauty. “Causeway” is really about the causeway going over the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Klamath is really about Klamath in Northern California, and so forth. This makes his songs less poignant, overall, cheerier and more relaxed.

The sound quality is faultless – recording again by Harn Soper at the Music Annex, the recording doesn’t cast a soundstage – rather it puts you almost in the position of the guitarist himself. The reverberant body of the guitar is constant presence, and obviously a well-considered part of De Grassi’s playing.

This is an essential recording.

Track Listing

Side One: 20:26

CAUSEWAY                            (1) 1978 (4:09)

INVERNESS                            (1) 1978 (3:24)

KLAMATH                              (2) 1978 (2:51)

SLEEPING LADY                   (4) 1978 (5:17)

SLOW CIRCLE I                     (2) 1975 (4:18)

Side One: 17:01

SLOW CIRCLE II               (2) 1978 (2:56)

WHITE RAIN                      (1) 1978 (3:36)

MARCH SKY                        (1) 1975 (4:03)

MIDWESTERN SNOW   (3) 1979 (6:10)

The Tunings:

(1) E B E F# B E

(2) E B E G A D

(3) E B E G# B D#

(4) E B E F# B D

Credits

My special thanks to Ervin Somogyi of Berkeley, CA who built and provided the guitar used for this recording.

Alex De Grassi.

Liner Notes

Alex DeGrassi is an acoustic guitar impressionist. At the heart of his music is an aesthetic sensibility that embraces both the beautiful and the abstract. His songs are at once enjoyable and provocative, combining classical harmonies, the deceptive simplicity of various ethnic and folk musics, and a freedom from convention befitting a jazz composer.

SLOW CIRCLE is especially communicative, for at every turn it hints of an accumulation of experiences worth sharing. Alex’s poetic intuition is acute, imparting to SLOW CIRCLE a visual suggestiveness, a timeless quality evoking not just rain or snow, but dreams of rain, memories of snow.

There is much variety here, though not in the usual sense of a guitarist displaying his facility with various established styles. Rather there is a single, cohesive style, a new voice. The strong tonal anchor of each piece is explored in a variety of ways, encompassing a variety of moods – intense and serene, cheerful and introspective, romantic and invigorating. There are delicate minuets that lilt and twirl, meditative tone poems, and thematic, self-accompanied melodies, all punctuated with deft harmonics.

Alex’s compositional hallmark is his special gift for the unexpected – the chordal twist, the elegant juxtaposition. Instead of ignoring classical harmony and consonance, he filters them through his own perception and presents a new harmony, a new consonance. He can tinge an original melody with the echo of a childhood favorite, a fusion that brings to mind Samuel Johnson’s remark about the poetry of Alexander Pope: “New things ar made familiar, and familiar things are made new.”

Alex fingerpicks a clear and bright sounding steel string guitar. Like his compositions, his playing is sensitive and inspired. Staccato flurries are executed with confidence, and the dense, blurry-fast arpeggios are as stunning for their articulation as for their speed. Poignant passages are played with grace, and Alex’s attention to detail, his appreciation for nuance, pervades every corner. In short, his technique is potentially virtuosic, scary, the kind that shoves fellow pickers to the cliff of decision: should I practice like a madman, or chuck it all together?

With SLOW CIRCLE, Alex DeGrassi establishes his artistry in the first moments of the first piece, and there soon emerges an identity so distinct and so inseparable from the songs that it’s hard to imagine another guitarist attempting them. There is a good chance that SLOW CIRCLES’s energy will take you in, that its eloquence will speak to you, and that its lingering spirit will bring  you back.

TOM WHEELER / Guitar Player Magazine.

WHS C-1005 Robbie Basho Visions of the Country


Visions of the Country

Original Release Date: 1978

Artist Web Site: http://www.robbiebasho-archives.info/ (by Steffen Basho-Junghans)

Review

Robbie Basho’s “Visions of the Country” is the fifth Windham Hill Records release, and the 10th album by the artist. It is one of the three “lost” Windham Hill releases – those original recordings that were not re-issued when Windham Hill gained national distribution. Robbie’s second Windham Hill album, WHS-1010 “The Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar” was re-released under the Lost Lake Arts imprint, but not “Visions of the Country.”

On first listen, there is no doubt why. Basho’s singing (and whistling) is heartfelt, strangely soulful and intense.  Ackerman was otherwise providing a very consistent sound and look with the albums released once Windham Hill gained national distribution in 1980.

If all you are looking for is the instrumental, relaxing, almost classical feel of other Windham Hill releases “Visions of the Country” will remain a curiosity. In it, you can hear how Ackerman was inspired by the fingerpicking steel-string playing of Basho (and the other Takoma Records artists Leo Kottke and John Fahey.) But you will likely have little interest in Basho’s intense and riveting vocal style.

However, if you value intensely heartfelt, innovative and riveting music – “Visions of the Country” is an excellent introduction to a voice that deserves your attention. While not always easy listening – much of this demands attention – there remains a beauty and gentleness throughout the album.

There is much more to Basho’s story than I can go into at this time. For more information from a Basho expert, Steffen Basho-Junghans maintains an excellent site about Robbie Basho’s work and life.

Basho describes the album this way in the liner notes:

“Visions of the Country is simply an L.P. of Guitar Paintings of the Americas and other joys. It uses the folk ballad style of some and the flowing Raga style of Hindu music to express the feeling and texture of the American Wilderness…Panoramique.”

Update, 8/2013:

Visions of the Country is being re-released. Purchase the Visions of the Country CD at GrassTops and the Visions of the Country LP on Vinyl from Gnome Life.  See the Pitchfork Visions of the Country review.

With the original master tapes long gone, Windhaming was charged with transcribing a pristine vinyl pressing to digital for mastering.

Equipment:

  • Vinyl Vacuum: VPI HW-17 Record Cleaning Machine
  • Turntable 1:  VPI Scout; JMW-9 arm; Dynavector 10×5 cartridge
  • Turntable 2: VPI Classic 1; JMW-10T arm; Dynavector XX-2 Mk II cartridge
  • Gingko Cloud Isolation platform
  • Cables: Furutech AG-12 tonearm cable
  • Analog to Digital Converter: TC Impact Twin
  • Computer: Apple Mac Mini
  • Software: PureVinyl by Channel D
  • Power Regeneration: PS Audio PowerPlant Premier
  • Power Cables: Acoustic Zen Tsunami

SIDE ONE: 27:01

Green River Suite (7:46) 1978

Six String Guitar and Voice

Rodeo (2:32) 1978

Six String Guitar

Rocky Mountain Raga (7:38) 1978

Twelve string guitar and voice: violin by Antoinette Marcus

Variations on Easter (4:01) 1977

Six string guitar

Blue Crystal Fire (4:49) 1977

Six string guitar and voice

SIDE TWO: 22:18

Orphan’s Lament (3:46) 1975

Piano and voice

Leaf in the Wind (4:46) 1973

Piano and whistling

Night Way (6:14) 1973

Six string guitar and voice

Elk Dreamer’s Lament (4:14) 1978

Twelve string guitar

Call on the Wind (3:04) 1977

Six string guitar and voice

Credits

  • Recorded at Recording Etc. Productions Berkeley, CA
  • Except tracks one, two and three of side two
  • All studio production, engineering and mixing by Dennis Reed
  • Mastered by Stan Ricker
  • Pressed by Record Technology Inc. Camarillo, CA
  • Produced by William Ackerman
  • Cover Photography by Ed Cooper: Everett, WA
  • Insert photo by Jeffrey Dooley
  • All compositions by Robbie Basho
  • All selections by Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388 Stanford, CA 94305
  • © (p) Windham Hill Records 1978

Liner Notes

I would paint for you a portrait of North America, as a beautiful woman, when she was young and untarmed, untrammeled upon and unshamed. Her discipline was natural, her modesty overwhelming. And in the morning she would wash the burning face of the sun with her loving mist and comb his auburn hair with balsam fur: and he would smile upon her, and the day would begin and she would spread her apron for all to gather round her and she would feed the deer and the birds and share her loving heart with all creation. And with breakfast done, she would take her waterjar across her shoulders and off to the fields she would go; the seeds of corn and squash to sow, and she would raise her head to watch the forests weave their silent singing o’er the wind; and she would tickle the streams with magic fingers and feel the water’s flow and know the humor of their coursing. And up, up into the afternoon she would saunter, the sweat upon her brow, and past the jagged rocks, and past the balsam boughs , and in the shade od cedar she would stop to rest perchance to pray. Could she forget the warmth of sun against her eyes at night, and sight has fallen slowly into sleep and keep: and awake! and shake! and clear! and down and deep she wonders with the deer, and suppertime is drawing near; and dear it is the broth of sky she drinks and sweet the taste of buttered sun before he sinks (beyond the horizon),…..and twilight winks his way into her watchful heart, and start the song. For in the evening she would sing oh so sweetly that entire earth would turn on its side the better to hear her: and moon would place his palm against his cheek and weep with deep emotion for he was an old fellow with white hair, and she made him forget the distance of eons and eons and neutrons and protons. And of course this happened a long time ago before the age of tempered steel and ruffled lace, and outer space. But One can still hear her singing in the high countries of the heart and in the vast canyons of constant memory where the life of a single being is not forgotten nor forsworm and somewhere a child is born, and no where is the blanket torn between thee and me and shining sea and   God knows
earth calls
rain falls
corn growsloloma, loloma, loloma kwak kwai

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”.

WH-C-1002 Linda Waterfall Mary’s Garden

WH 1002 Mary's Garden Waterfall

Release Date: 1976

Artist’s Current Site: http://lindawaterfall.com/

Update: New comment by Jim Bredouw added 6/1/2010. See below.

Review

The second Windham Hill album, and first solo Linda Waterfall album. She had previously released material with Entropy Service. Mary’s Garden a very pleasant folk/pop album, with several strong songs and excellent moments.

Here are Linda Waterfall’s comments on Mary’s Garden from her web site:

“My first solo album, originally released by Windham Hill Records.  Special thanks to William Ackerman, my old school buddy from Stanford, who offered to put out my first album and bring me into the music business.  Some day soon I want to re-release this recording on CD.  This collection of songs is very close to my heart.  It cherishes special  people I loved very much, who cared for me and started me on my path through life.”

Three of the first ten Windham Hill albums were not being reissued by the time 1980 rolled around; all three varied from what would become the Windham Hill sound: Robbie Basho’s album has gorgeous guitar work in the style that had so inspired Ackerman, but with intensely riveting vocals; Kidd Afrika is a blues album, and Mary’s Garden by Linda Waterfall is vocal folk/pop.

It’s clear that Ackerman had a good ear. There’s an awful lot to like on Mary’s Garden, even 30 plus years after it’s release. But the sound is so different from the crystalline vision of the acoustic instrumental music that would define Windham Hill that it’s no surprise it wasn’t reprinted when the label gained national distribution. In later years, fans would knock Windham Hill for segueing into electronic and vocal jazz. In reality, it had been part of the original vision of the label.

There’s a good albeit brief biography of Waterfall on answers.com.

Linda has clearly had a long and successful career as an artist in the wake of her auspicious initial release. Here’s a lovely video of Linda Waterfall singing “Way of Beauty” recorded in 2009 – some 33 years after the release of Mary’s Garden. Credits and Liner notes from Mary’s Garden after the video.

I’m pleased to have received a generous email from Jim Bredouw who engineered and produced the Mary’s Garden, which appears unedited.

Following are the ramblings of a 59-year old music veteran, any of which you’re free to use or edit as you see fit.

Re: the story w/Linda; I worked at a tiny 24 tk. studio on E. Pike St. in Seattle called The Music Farm between 1974-79. I saw Linda with Entropy Service in 1976 and was immediately enamored with her voice, songs, unique gtr. technique* and, of course, that gigantic smile. A few months later, as I was on my way to Santa Cruz to meet my future wife for the very first time (married as of now for 33 years), I stopped by Palo Alto to see Linda and Will Ackerman and pursued the idea of producing her for this fledging new label that Will named for his construction company.

(* 99% of all gtr. players use standard chording but Linda would write all her parts out and would voice her gtr. chords to not match, for example, the line in the treble clef on which her vocal was written – I’d never seen anyone take “folk” music and orchestrate it the way she did; which makes sense given her classical background – that is, she read and wrote music; a ‘legitimacy’ that was rare in those days of mostly self taught, unschooled rock and folk musicians).

I don’t believe Will had never signed an act before and as I had been involved in exactly one ‘deal’ with another act I’d produced, the master of which got bought and actually released by a major label (Capitol), I suppose I thought of myself as the seasoned professional among we three (laughable now, of course, as Will became perhaps the most successful independent label since Berry Gordy of Motown and I never again placed another major) and if memory serves, I believe I might have helped Linda better her deal with Will a tiny bit and negotiated my end as well. (I think after moderate sales, it amounted to a few hundred bucks but in those days of regularly having an annual income of $6,000, that was a lot – it was also a high honor just to be paid to make a record in the then very small Seattle studio world.)

Linda generously allowed me to collaborate on her arrangements and I hired maybe a dozen or so of my favorite studio players to enhance her already complete compositions and the result, I think, still mostly stands up today – I particularly love the steel guitar on Mary’s Garden played by Chris Middaugh of the much loved Seattle country band, The Skyboys – more on them later. (I also hired the photographer, Jonathan Crane, the brother of an ex-girlfriend who took what I consider to be an iconic cover photo.)

She and I, considering that we’re both being fairly headstrong and opinionated about music (and most things), got along famously to my memory and I truly loved the entire process. (She also patiently and generously taught me how to write music which was instrumental to my future work orchestrating and even conducting large studio orchestras in my commercial composing career.

We were both proud of this record. Anecdotally, my next project after Linda was producing the aforementioned Skyboys – perhaps the best record I’ve ever produced. Midway through recording, they fired their bass player and on a WAY out of left field whim, I suggested that they audition Linda, who is also a remarkably capable bassist, among her many abilities. To many people’s surprise I would guess, she actually joined this hard drinking touring bar band all over Western Washington for the next couple of years and enhanced them all musically much as she had me – nothing unusual given her need to constantly be exploring her musical boundaries.

A couple of years after the completion of Mary’s Garden, I moved to LA, gradually built a 16-studio recording complex called The L.A. Studios (http://www.facebook.com/l/dc780;www.lastudios.com), which coincidentally I just sold two weeks ago after 30 years, and as mentioned, composed music for commercials for a number of years; most notably for Nike. I am now retired on Orcas Island north of Seattle and work out of a private home studio.

 

This also has the distinction of being the first Windham Hill album with a lyric sheet with the first note to Windham Hill customers:

“Windham Hill records is, and will probably remain, a small record label. As such, and with a budget typical of most independent ventures, this is little to rely upon in terms of promotion for our music but the quality of the music itself. Though we obviously hop to survive financially, we will be less concerned with the mass appeal of our recordings than with promoting the talents of the individual artist, whose freedom artistically will be in no way compromised by Windham Hill. So without wanting to become in any way elitist, we will be content to reach an audience looking for some alternative to the dictates of the major labels. The production of our albums will be of a quality consistent with our regard for the music, and though there are certainly good arguments for “home recordings,” we have chosen to master only the work of professional studios. Please write to us and inquire about our other recordings.”

In a 2016 Facebook post, Ackerman added some details about this, and the othe early Windham Hill instrumental title, Kidd Afrika: “Linda Waterfall (Mary’s Garden) and Kidd Afrika were personal choices of mine … Linda was at Stanford with me and was close to JB White and Frank Light (the “White Light Band”) who were as good as any duo on the radio at the time…. no, I mean REALLY as good as anything on the radio at that time. Linda was equally brilliant …. Kidd Afrika included Larry Ryan who was a faculty brat like me… his dad was in the English Dept. at Stanford along with my dad and a lot of memories include Larry.”

 

Credits:

Side One

Country Bar (for Jimi Norton)

  • guitar, bass: Linda Waterfall
  • electric Piano: Martin Lund
  • drums: Peter Brown
  • chickenpicken’:Charlie Morgan

Mary’s Garden

  • guitar, bass: Linda Waterfall
  • pedal steel: Chris Middaugh
  • Song for Elizabeth (for Elizabeth Stolurow)
  • guitars: Linda Waterfall

The Spell

  • guitar: Linda Waterfall
  • congas: Jerry Weeden
  • seagulls, foghorn: Jim Bredouw

Gary

  • piano: Linda Waterfall
  • bass: Jim Lilly
  • drums: Donny Marrow
  • electric guitar: Charlie Morgan from Kidd Afrika

Side Two

Grandma’s Crumbcake

  • guitar, arrangement: Linda Waterfall
  • clarinet: Martin Lund

Cherry Tomato

  • guitar: Linda Waterfall

The Bird Song

  • guitars, arrangement: Linda Waterfall
  • cello: Page Smith
  • brown rice, stopwatch: Tim Rock

Lullaby

  • guitar, kalimba, bass: Linda Waterfall
  • electric piano: Martin Lund

All Alone Tonight

  • piano, bass: Linda Waterfall
  • accordian: Martin Lund

Liner Notes:

  • Recorded at the Music Farm in Seattle
  • Engineered and mixed by Jim Bredouw
  • Mastered by Ken Perry at Capitol Records
  • Produced by Jim Bredouw
  • All vocals by Linda Waterfall
  • All compositions by Linda Waterfall
  • Photography by Jonathan Crane

“I would like to thank Jim Bredouw for his fine engineering, invaluable production advice, and for being great fun to work with. I would also like to thank William Ackerman of Windham Hill Records for his friendship and enthusiasm. Special thanks also to Gunnar Erickson, Ned Hearn, Richenda Richardson, The Music Farm, and Entropy Service; to Peter Langston for ideas I used in the arrangements of The Bird Song and Lullaby, to Annette Morriss for the first line of Cherry Tomato, and to my teachers Mrs. Olga Sorenson Fuss, Mrs. William Burgoyne, and especially to Mary Festinger.

All selections Windham Hill Music (BMI) except Grandma’s Crumbcake Mighty Oak Music

Manufactured ny Windham Hill Records, Stanford, California (c) & (p) 1976 Windham Hill Records.

WHS-C 1001 William Ackerman – The Search for the Turtle’s Navel

The Search for the Turtle’s Navel or

In Search of the Turtle’s Navel

Original Release Date: 1976

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

Updated September 2015 with new details about different pressings. See below.

Review

This is the album that started it all. “The Search for the Turtle’s Navel” is the first William Ackerman album, the first Windham Hill album. In 1975, William Ackerman, a Stanford dropout and founder of Windham Hill Builders in Palo Alto, California collected $5 each from 300 friends to record an album. They had heard him play live and wanted to have the music to listen to anytime.

Ackerman had been inspired by John Fahey’s Takoma Records – musically, and with the sense that he, too, could start his own record label. At the time, Ackerman hadn’t envisioned that his label would sell millions of recordings establish dozens of artists and start a new genre. He was making records for friends and putting out records part time. As the founding of Windham Hill is fairly widely reported, I’ll not go into it deeply here.

It is an essential recording for fans of solo guitar, folk, finger-picking, and new age.

As a collector and lover of the early Windham Hill albums this is certainly the most interesting because Ackerman would change it with new printings. This original page featured two covers that I’ve found in Bay Area stores: the “black cover” Windham Hill recording with guitar on the back, and the final “White Cover” Windham Hill pressing. The A&M pressing replicated the “White Cover” Windham Hill release except for the change in release number from “WHS C-1001” t0 “WH 1001” and the addition of the A&M distribution reference.

Since then I’ve heard from guitarist and Ackerman collector Tim Pacheco, who graciously photographed 5 different versions he’s collected. I’ve also heard from the “Turtle’s Navel” recording engineer Scott Saxon, who also has multiple copies.

The Search for the Turtle’s Navel: The original version is titled “The Search for the Turtle’s Navel” and features a black and white photo of a young child over the entire cover. The back side features a black and white shot by photographer Ron May of a guitar neck with plant silhouettes behind it.

Some have wondered about title. Don’t turtles lay eggs? How could they have a navel? This question drove the album name. In a comment in the Facebook group Windham Hill Lovers, Will Ackerman states: When I was 10 we lived in Germany for a year. My father was the head “prof” for the second Stanford in Germany campus. I was then a fairly serious ping pong player. There was a ping pong table there and I could usually beat the pants off of most of the students. One student, Bill Sterling (the son of the then-president of Stanford University), however, was a challenge. We used to bet on games. A Mark was worth 25 cents in a time when that would buy 50 Gumi Bears in Germany…. my principal currency at the time. There was a time when Bill owed me 5 marks (a nice hefty coin that made me feel pretty rich when I had one)… he offered me a deal… double or nothing. If I could find a picture of a turtle’s navel I’d be up to 10 Marks and if not it would be back to 0 for me. So I went hunting for the photo and failed. I handed over my 5 Marks, not wanting to be a “kid” and taking my lumps. Bill smiled and explained the ruse and handed me 10 Marks !!! I recently reached out to Bill who remembered the bet. He did say that I owed him at least 10 Marks for the title of my LP (now CD).”

UPDATE: Scott Saxon, who was the recording engineer for Ackerman’s “The Search for the Turtle’s Navel” and “It Takes a Year” as well as Alex De Grassi’s “Turning: Turning Back” has promised to share some interesting stuff about the original recording sessions, including the technical stuff. Scott Saxon is currently owner at TechShop Durham.

The Search for the Turtle's Navel
Original Black Cover

Credits from final Windham Hill issued “black cover” release

  • Recorded at Mantra Studios, San Mateo, CA.
  • Engineered and mixed by Scott Saxon.
  • Produced by Scott Saxon and William Ackerman
  • Liner photo by Ron May
  • All compositions by William Ackerman
  • All selections Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388 Stanford, Ca. 94305
  • (c)(p)WINDHAM HILL RECORDS 1976
White Cover

Credits from “White Cover” release

  • Recorded at Mantra Studios, San Mateo, CA.
  • Engineered and mixed by Scott Saxon.
  • Produced by Scott Saxon and William Ackerman
  • Cover photo by William Ackerman
  • Liner photo by Anne Ackerman
  • Design by Gail Segerstrom, Cheryl, Anne Ackerman and Will Ackerman
  • All compositions by William Ackerman
  • All selections Windham Hill Music BMI
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • Box 9388 Stanford, Ca. 94305
  • (c)(p)WINDHAM HILL RECORDS 1976

Liner Notes

Side One

THE PINK CHIFFON TRICYCLE QUEEN (5:30) 1973

proving once and for all that speed and dexterity are not enough. Written as the theme song for the 1973 Smart Person’s Convention in Detroit.

ELY (5:27) 1970

intended to convey a picture of the cathedral in Ely, England

WINDHAM MARY (4:25) 1972

a song for Mary Folsom.

PROCESSIONAL (3:40) 1973

for Steve Harvey who is noted within theatre circles primarily for his promotion of excessive hairgrowth as a viable dramatic form.

DANCE FOR THE DEATH OF A BIRD (3:27) 1970

a kotoesque ballad of death and anger. The thought “life is an endless vista of toil” may be supplied by the individual listener as harmony.

THE SECOND GREAT TORTION BAR OVERLAND OF WEST TOWNSHEND, VERMONT, JOSE PEPSI ATTENDING (3:10) 1974

a horror story of metal fatigue and intoxication wherein a maddened Pepsi salesman is coerced into the abandonment of all ethical standards and a submissive truck first experiences the freedom of modern downhill skiing.

Side Two

WHAT THE BUZZARD TOLD SUZANNE (4:30) 1971

conveys the mood of terrible heat and concerns itself with how unwelcome enlightenment can be without icecubes.

BARBARA’S SONG (7:25) 1970

a song of love and its attendant miseries

GAZOS (4:33) 1975

in commemoration of The Great Barrier Reef Marsupial Jamboree, 1857 at which time Coriolis Effect was invented for purposes of comedy.

SLOW MOTION ROAST BEEF RESTAURANT SEDUCTION (3:33) 1974

the woman across from you is moonlit and confessing something. Suddenly the flood comes.

WOMAN SHE RIDES (2:43) 1974

being a lament directed at the singing voice itself.

Tunings and Tabs

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

Alternate Covers

Photos Courtesy of guitarist Tim Pacheco.

CD Reissue Liner Notes

It seems both like yesterday and in another lifetime that I recorded Turtle’s Navel. While not as poetic, the calendar tells me it was somewhere in the middle of these extremes, twenty-two years ago. It was 1975 and I was 25.

In 1975, the Bee Gees we Jive Talkin’ and we were scared to go into the water; a young Steven Spielberg having done for oceans what Hitchcock had previously done for showers. I recorded a simple solo guitar record at Mantra Studios in San Mateo, California with a guy named Scott Saxon engineering. I think the whole project took place in three two-hour sessions. It’s impossible to describe the innocence of the experience. This was intended to be a record for friends who had heard my music in stairwells and churches in the Palo Alto, California area. This naïve and innocent ambition was the beginning of Windham Hill Records which, like Turtle’s Navel, is now twenty-two years old.

I have not listened to Turtle’s Navel all the way through since 1976, which offers a musician about as much objectivity on their own music as one could hope for. I just listened to the record. It is so long ago that I almost feel it was written by someone else. Whoever the guy is, you can hear clearly the source of some of his influence: John Fahey in “What the Buzzard Told Suzanne,” Kottke in “The Second Great Tortion Bar Overland” and “The Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen,” Robbie Basho in “Ely” and Japanese Koto music in “Dance for the Death of a Bird.” There are transitions I had forgotten and was surprised to hear as the CD played. Two fo the songs Id actually forgotten entirely, “Gazos” and “Slow Motion Roast Beef Restaurant Seduction.” I was surprised by the jazzy feel of “Windham Mary” and “Gazos,” an element which has all but disappeared from what I write now. What struck me the most, though, was that a few songs really sounded like they had their own voice; “Processional” (still a staple of my live performance), “Barbara’s Song” and “Slow Motion.” The years however, and all the music that has come since, make the fruits of this exploration rather like finding artifacts in an archeological dig. I am pleased to say that Turtle’s Navel sounds simple, even primitive to me, but also sincere.

I hope you’ll find something here that you enjoy.

Will Ackerman

Windham County, VT November 1, 1997

August 2015 Updates

Since publishing this a few years back, I’ve found new copies of the album, and heard comments from Will Ackerman about some of the variations. In a comment on the Facebook Group Windham Hill Lovers, Will says:

“The very first Turtle’s Navel albums were printed on a warm brown paper stock. They are easily identified by the fact that they were glued to plain white album covers (which were in the ceiling crawlspace of Mantra Studios in San Mateo and given to me by engineer Scott Saxon), so that one can see the white of the cover on the spine and on all of the margins. This was being done on such a shoestring budget that the free plain covers from Scott were deeply appreciated. These early covers retained the inclusion of thanks to friends who helped make these covers… Gail Segerstrom who did the design with my input (the photo I took being of my sister Elinor when she was 3), Geoff Elliot who did the actual printing. Then it was up to me to use spray adhesive to glue these to the plain white covers. The second incarnation is much the same as the first except the gluing of the cover printing is over black covers which were given to me by Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records (for whom I was doing some construction work in Emeryville, CA as part of my Windham Hill Builders company). The covers were from a discontinued record called “Louisiana Prison Worksongs.” I take certain delight that Turtles and prison work songs could be such intimate partners in this. I am indebted to friend and fellow guitarist Tim Pacheco who has found at least 5 of the covers as they evolved and sent them to me as gifts. One of the tip-offs that you have one of the original covers is that I learned that I needed some sort of copyright information on the records and so had a rubber stamp made that read ” P ” with a circle around it, 1975 William Ackerman. I believe that there were perhaps 300 of these covers. I’d have to write a book on all of the later variations. I believe there are 7 different Turtle’s Navel cover incarnations. Will”

You can see some of these covers in a video I made of the 5 variations I own here: