Tag Archives: RTI

WH 1029 Shadowfax Shadowdance

WH 1029 Shadowfax Shadowdance
WH 1029 Shadowfax Shadowdance

WH 1029 Shadowfax Shadowdance

Review

Shadowdance confidently strides into the Windham Hill catalog with the showstopping New Electric India, electric guitar and thundering bass resounding. This is a slightly different approach than the bands eponymous label debut which was specifically composed to work within Windham Hill’s established acoustic sound. After the success of the first, the band was clearly given a little more freedom to follow their live sound than they dared on their original Windham Hill release. While Shadowfax has incredible depth texture and flow, Shadowdance brings dynamics and drive to the band’s gorgeous melodic sensibility.

From the opening note of New Electric India through the closing hum of the track Shadowdance, every note carries you through a churning river of sound depositing you at the end both thrilled and relaxed. Indeed, maybe the water analogy comes easily because Shadowdance has been used at the plankton exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the last 20 years.

Side Two carries the torch with the Don Cherry-penned track Brown Rice – a standout from the live performances, and closes with the more conventional fusion track A Song for My Brother, a fan favorite.

The sound quality is again extraordinary. Ackerman once again looked to Mobile Fidelity for the mastering and RTI for the pressings. Playing the album on my current vinyl rig was a shocker: the recording is so dynamic and detailed. I’m sure that in part that’s because this album is seared into my memory from countless plays on a Maxell cassette. In 1984-85, I was an exchange student to Yugoslavia, specifically Serbia, and due to space restrictions I could only bring 10 cassettes for my year there.  Shadowfax/Shadowdance was the one Windham Hill tape I brought. Truly, for me, this was a “Desert Island Disk.”

Unfortunately, Stuart Nevitt, Chuck Greenberg and Bruce Malament  have all passed away.

Shadowfax on Facebook

Chuck Greenberg on iLike

New York Times Obituary for Chuck Greenberg

Joy Greenberg has written the biography “A Pause in the Rain” about Chuck, and maintains his web site:  http://www.chuckgreenberg.com/cgindex.htm

You can find Joy’s site, and samples from her book here: http://www.joyhornergreenberg.com/jghome.htm She shares fascinating anecdotes and details about the band, as well as personal remembrances, in an easy engaging style; I highly recommend it for any Shadowfax fan.

Joy has generously permitted the reprint of an excerpt here:

Excerpt from the Chuck Greenberg biography “A Pause in the Rain” by Joy Greenberg

The success of Shadowfax enabled the band to go into production on a second album. For material, they didn’t have to look too far. Intuitive businessman that he was, Chuck began thinking about all those old Watercourse Way masters over at Passport Records.

Although Watercourse Way had been out for eight years, the band had never received a dime in royalties. Chuck knew that there were many copies in print, however, and that the demand for them would increase with the release of the new Shadowfax. He also believed that if Shadowfax turned out to be a hit, there might be a renewed interest in the band’s first album, Watercourse Way. However, he wasn’t willing for Passport to be the beneficiary of any newfound success, particularly since he felt that Passport had burned the band for nonpayment of royalties. So, Chuck and the band’s attorney Steven Lowy devised a scheme to buy back all the old master tapes. Chuck knew he’d have to move quickly—before the release of Shadowfax. Once Passport suspected it might be able to gain more mileage out of Watercourse Way, the price for the masters would go up.

It worked—Chuck made them an offer and Passport was only too happy to rid themselves of what they perceived to be a “dead horse.” On the very day that the Billboard review hit the stands raving about Shadowfax, Chuck was collecting the master tapes from the Passport warehouse and blithely walking out the door with them.

Gaining the rights to Watercourse Way turned out to be more significant than even Chuck imagined at the time. In addition to re- releasing it en toto, Windham Hill selected one of its cuts, a lilting Chuck/G.E. duet called “Petite Aubade,” to be on the first of their Winter Solstice series, which went on to achieve Gold Record status. It also made it possible to “borrow” those tunes which the band felt were basically worthy but which had not succeeded as well on Watercourse Way as they had expected. For this reason, the title song from Watercourse Way, along with G.E.’s “Song for My Brother” were selected to be rerecorded for the second Windham Hill Shadowfax album, Shadowdance.

As with Shadowfax, Chuck and G.E. shared song writing duties on Shadowdance, with the exception of a piece by Don Cherry which was a medley of two tunes, “Brown Rice/Karmapa Chenno.” G.E., Phil, and Chuck were big fans of Cherry’s music and had been performing “Brown Rice” live, traditionally as the closing number of their set. It was the only non-Shadowfax composition they ever recorded or performed, and likewise one of the few with lyrics. Nonetheless, it was a testament to the band’s arranging skills. A consistent and perennial show-stopper, “Brown Rice” featured rap-like (before it was in style) nursery rhyme lyrics growled out by G.E. and backed by his searing guitar, with Chuck screaming on tenor sax, building to a crescendo then switching to a wailing lyricon—all pushed forcefully by Phil and Stu’s rhythm section.

Shadowdance became another showcase for Chuck’s burgeoning production genius. Although it cost slightly more than Shadowfax to create, he brought it in on time and under budget. In addition to the seven touring band members, he enlisted Emil Richards in the studio again, with Michael Spiro and Mickey Lehockey to beef up the percussion. The title tune from Shadowdance went on to become a featured number live, often receiving the greatest recognition and applause whenever they performed it and deservedly so. “Shadowdance” combined all the best qualities of Shadowfax: a catchy melody, rhythmic beat and interesting assortment of instruments.

Virtuoso percussionist Emil Richards had filled up the whole room at Group IV Sound with his esoteric collection of instruments from around the world, and the result was astounding. “Shadowdance” became a consistently sought tune by filmmakers, TV and radio shows for background music. After more than a decade, it is still being used by the Monterey Bay Aquarium for what I call its “dancing plankton” exhibit.

The band was also now able to afford a better recording studio when they set out to do Shadowdance, finding in Group IV the perfect place financially, personally, and technologically. A few years earlier, Chuck had performed on a movie soundtrack at Group IV and managed to cut a deal for himself through the owners to use the place at night—traditionally “dead” time––at a bargain rate. Without Angel Ballestier and the rest at Group IV, it would have been impossible to cut such high quality records for the price. So began an illustrious multi-record liaison between band and studio.

Shadowfax 1983 band lineup
WH 1029 Shadowfax Shadowdance back cover

Shadowfax members are active on the web, catch up with them on Facebook and MySpace.

Samples

Shadowdance

A Song for My Brother

Track Listings

Side One: 20:51

  • New Electric India 5:12,  Stinson Ξ
  • Watercourse Way 5:06, Greenberg-Stinson Ο Ξ
  • Ghost Bird 5:04, Stinson Ξ
  • Shadowdance 5:20, Greenberg Ο

Side Two 17:14

  • Brown Rice/Karmapa Chenno 4:18, D. Cherry ◊
  • Distant Voice 3:46, Stinson-Greenberg Ξ Ο
  • A Song for my Brother 9:04, Stinson Ξ

Ξ Selections Greenshadow Music  (BMI)

Ο Selections Dream Wheel Music (BMI)

All Selections Administered by Windham Hill Music (BMI)

◊ Selection Eternal River Music (BMI)

Credits

SHADOWFAX:

Additional Instrumentation:

  • Emil Richards: Paiste gamelon gongs, bass flapamba, metal and bamboo angklung, wood block marimba, marimba on Shadowdance; Chinese water cymbals, kanjgeera on New Electric India. The percussion ensemble on Shadowdance was conducted by Emil Richards.
  • Michael Spiro: conga, chekere, guiro on Brown Rice; hand percussion on Watercourse Way, Brown Rice.
  • Mick Lehocky: percussion on Shadowdance and Brown Rice.
  • Adam Rudolph: tabla on New Electric India

Produced by Chuck Greenberg

  • Recorded and mixed at Group IV Audio, Hollywood, CA
  • Additional Recording at Fiddler Studio, Hollywood, CA
  • Recording and mix engineer: Harry Andronis
  • Assistant engineers: Andy d’Addario and Mike Gilbert
  • Synthesizer Programming: Todd McKinney and Mike Gilbert
  • Original half-speed mastering by Jack Hunt at Mobile Fidelity
  • Matrix and pressings by RTI, Camarillo, CA
  • Cover photo by John F. Cooper
  • Liner photos by Carol Sincora and John Bonetti
  • Design by Anne Ackerman Robinson

This recording was made on Studer 24-track recorders and Trident consoltes with Ampex 456 tape at 30 inches per second. It was mixed to a Studer Mark III half-inch two-track recorder. No noise reduction, compression or limiting was used.

Thanks to Jilll and Don Stegman, Bruce Howard, World Percussion Inc. Phil Manor, Mike Flynn, Christ Andronis, Steven Lowy, Denni Sands and all at Group IV, and Charles Horton at TEAC.

Special thanks to Will Ackerman and Anne Ackerman Robinson for having the faith to make this album possible.

Other Shadowfax albums on Windham Hill

1. Shadowfax 1981

2. Shadowdance 1983

3. The Dreams of Children 1984

4. Too Far to Whisper 1986

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

RTI tour Michael Fremer Vinyl World

It’s a Vinyl World After All

Many of the best Windham Hill releases were pressed at the justly famous RTI plant in lovely Camarillo, California (not far from my Aunt Selma’s house.) Michael Fremer visits the RTI plant (as well as Pallas in Europe) on his vinyl video “It’s A Vinyl World After All.”

Until “How It’s Made” or “Modern Marvels” take on the glories of the vinyl pressing process, this will stand as a terrific document of the work done at RTI.

Michael Fremer’s DVD is available for purchase at most audiophile websites like Acoustic Sounds, Music Direct, Elusive Disc and Amazon, and for loan at Netflix. Enjoy

 

 

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

WH 1023 Liz Story Solid Colors

Review

Solid Colors is the auspicious debut of Liz Story. In the wake of the massive success of George Winston’s December a river of cassette demo tapes that would have stretched around the world came pouring into William Ackerman’s Palo Alto PO Box 9388. Liz Story’s recording was the beautiful bucket drawn from the torrent.

Rich, dense, and impressionistic – but always still pretty – Story draws from jazz, particularly as expressed by pianist Bill Evans, in much the same way as George Winston drew from folk. Liz Story’s style has continued to develop over the years. She continues to record, and each release deserves close listening.

The recording quality, as always, is excellent, with Story’s rich harmonics lovingly presented, and while the vinyl is the standard, even the CD transfer holds up well.

Solid Colors is a must-have recording for any fan of piano jazz, new age music, or Windham Hill.

Here’s the review I wish that I had written, by James Rotundi from Amazon: Story’s remarkable 1983 debut is the intellectual sister of Winston’s December–a discursive series of solo piano improvisations that draw on the rich jazz harmony of pioneers like Bill Evans, Story’s acknowledged chief inspiration. Yet Colors is almost minimalist next to Evans’s more densely textured works–a spacious blend of polychords, breezy runs, and finely timed sustenutos, with an accessible spirit and memorable melodies–like the uplifting figure she plays over a simple descending bassline in “Hymn,” or the indelible major-key main theme of “Things with Wings.” More economical than Keith Jarrett, more florid and changeable than Winston, Story finds a compelling middle ground here between jazz harmony and classical technique, outside improv and sturdy songcraft, complex performance and inner stillness. –James Rotondi

Liz Story can be found on the web:

Samples

Things with Wings

Track Listing

SIDE ONE: 20:23

  1. Wedding Rain 5:44
  2. Pacheco Pass 3:05
  3. Without You 4:29
  4. Hymn 4:17
  5. Things With Wings 2:48

SIDE TWO: 20:09

  1. Solid Colors 4:36
  2. Bradley’s Dream 4:43
  3. White Heart 2:12
  4. Water Caves 3:07
  5. Peace Piece* 5:31

Credits

  • All Compositions by Liz Story except where noted
  • All Selections Windham Hill Music (BMI) except where noted
  • *Peace Piece is Acorn Music (BMI), Composed by Bill Evans
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Records
  • A Division of Windham Hill Productions Inc.
  • Box 9388, Stanford, CA 94305
  • (c) (p) Windham Hill Records, 1982
  • This recording was made direct to two-track using a Studer A80 VU MKIII half-inch recorder at 30 inches per second through a Harrison board. No noise reduction, limiting or compression was used. KEF speakers were used for audio monitoring and referencing on this reecording.
  • Our thanks to Steven Miller for his many contributions in production.
  • Without You is for Terry.
  • Peace Piece is a homage to its composer, Bill Evans.

WH-1023

WH 1022 Shadowfax Shadowfax

WH 1022 Shadowfax Shadowfax

Review

Shadowfax is the eponymous second release from the atmospheric fusion group, and the twenty-second release on Windham Hill. With a strong Asian and Native American influence on the music, there is a different feel to this release than the folk, classical and chamber jazz releases of their label-mates. And while this is fusion and not rock – there are rock underpinnings throughout the album. While this release isn’t as dynamic as all later albums, there is a drive and flow that comes through even on the quietest tracks.

As for the sound – this recording is an excellent litmus test of your system. While you can enjoy the music anywhere, it will sound compressed and more like atmospheric background music than the eastern-inspired jazz that it is. If you play the vinyl and your system doesn’t sound detailed and dynamic, then your system could use some extra resolving power. You can follow each instrument throughout every song and each piece comes to life. Phil’s bass is tight and yet full-bodied, and the ever-present percussion sparkles throughout each track. When I see someone dismiss this album as lacking any engagement or dynamics, I blame their reproduction of it, not the music. That being said, for the first 10 years I owned this album, I mainly played it on a home-made cassette through an old Sony receiver, and enjoyed it just as much as I do today.

As a bit of trivia, the closing sound on Vajra that I always took as a dog is actually Emil Richards dragging a rubber balled mallet over a marimba key, according to Phil Maggini in a 2013 Facebook comment.

Shadowfax members are active on the web, catch up with them on Facebook and MySpace.

Unfortunately, Stuart Nevitt, Chuck Greenberg and Bruce Malament  have all passed away. Links to their obituaries are below.

http://www.facebook.com/shadowfaxmusic?ref=ts#!/shadowfaxmusic?v=wall&viewas=1196427542&ref=ts

http://www.ilike.com/artist/Chuck+Greenberg/

New York Times Obituary for Chuck Greenberg: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/09/obituaries/chuck-greenberg-musician-dies-at-45.html

Joy Greenberg has written the biography “A Pause in the Rain” about Chuck, and maintains his web site:  http://www.chuckgreenberg.com/cgindex.htm

You can find Joy’s site, and samples from her book here: http://www.joyhornergreenberg.com/jghome.htm She shares fascinating anecdotes and details about the band, as well as personal remembrances, in an easy engaging style; I highly recommend it for any Shadowfax fan.

Joy has generously permitted the reprint of an excerpt here:

Excerpt from “A Pause in the Rain” by Joy Greenberg:

There soon evolved a microcosmic musical community that could provide work for a lot of people. The timing was perfect—it became a little engine, allowing everyone to play and record with each other. Phil and Chuck became creatures of habit, starting a rehearsal schedule with a day-in-day-out routine, knowing the process was essential to their growth and viability as musicians. Robit did, indeed, manage to attract the backing of a label and cut the album Resident Alien with Chuck, Phil, drummer Stu Nevitt and guitarist G.E backing him up. By then Stu and G.E. had moved out from Chicago and were rehearsing with Chuck and Phil in a variety of bands, including one fronted by another old friend from the Windy City, Morris Dollison, aka Cash McCall. The Cash McCall band featured all the blues songs, like “Sweet Home Chicago,” the guys had grown up listening to and playing.

“It was through this musical network that Chuck’s—and Shadowfax’s—Big Break arrived. Robit had met another guitarist, Alex de Grassi, in London, where he was playing music in the streets, subways and folk clubs during the summer of ’73. Robit had kept in touch with Alex and had been urging him to collaborate somehow with Chuck.

Meanwhile, Alex had established himself as the premier solo instrumental guitarist on the seminal New Age label, Windham Hill. As Windham Hill cofounder Will Ackerman’s cousin, Alex was in an influential position, something that did not go unnoticed by Chuck. He admired Alex’s artistry and was eager to meet him. The feeling was mutual; Alex sent Chuck the tape of a guitar part to a new piece he was working on and invited Chuck to contribute a lyricon part. Chuck was only too happy to oblige. Then one day in the latter part of ’81, Chuck, Robit and I drove up to San Francisco from L.A. in Ruby. I dropped them off at Alex’s house in Noe Valley and went out to visit some friends while Chuck and Alex rehearsed some tunes for Alex’s upcoming album Clockwork. When I returned later, I heard a gorgeous melody emanating from Alex’s as I parked the car in front. It was the song, “Clockwork.”

Alex was impressed as well. They ended up recording two pieces. “Everybody went apeshit,” Alex said.

Indeed, they did. It seemed that all who heard Chuck’s lyricon were enchanted. Alex’s album Clockwork scored a big hit on radio and at retail, as well as with the powers at Windham Hill. As a result of its success, Chuck was emboldened to propose an album to Will Ackerman, who initially believed that Chuck wanted to do a solo project. Chuck’s task became convincing Will that what Will really wanted was a Shadowfax album, something he managed to accomplish without Will’s ever hearing the band play.

Chuck sensed that Will would not approve of the “outside,” heavily electrified, screaming-for-attention tunes that had been recorded by Shadowfax on Watercourse Way. It just didn’t jibe with the primarily acoustic, mellow, laid back sounds for which Windham Hill was gaining recognition. And Chuck knew better than to invite Will to a showcase and see this “electric fusion monster quartet”—the antithesis of Windham Hill music—live. It would have been an invitation to disaster, sending the self-avowed hater of electronic music running for cover. Will’s interest in recording Chuck was based upon Chuck’s essentially acoustic approach to Alex’s record Clockwork. To accept this offer on the basis of Will’s perception, completely ignoring the nature of his label’s musical direction, and to present him with an electric manifesto, would have been unfair to him and deal suicide. No, meeting and hearing Shadowfax was definitely not the way to get a deal with Will.

However, the band had a card up its sleeve—one it could play without any negative sense of compromise or loss of musical integrity. There had always been an acoustic side of the band that they very much enjoyed but that was never allowed to come to fruition. Now they simply took advantage of the opportunity to explore it further, creating a discipline that was at once challenging and creative. Chuck figured out how to convince Will that Shadowfax would be the perfect ensemble addition to the label’s roster of solo artists.

Fortunately, Will Ackerman was so smitten by Chuck’s lyricon from the moment he heard it that he was willing to go ahead with Chuck’s plan to record. “Suddenly there was this indescribable, ethereal sound,” Will said. He and Alex were sitting in a park in Silicon Valley, listening to “Clockwork,” and this “unbelievable sound, the music of angels.” Alex told him that “the angel responsible for this sound was one Chuck Greenberg, and that the instrument was called the lyricon.” When Chuck joined Alex in concert at the Great American Music Hall, Will was there, and “there was that sound of angels again.” After the show he spoke with Chuck, who promptly told him about Shadowfax, and it was decided, more or less on the spot, to record a Shadowfax album.

At first, I was incredulous that Chuck would want to go to all the extra trouble to get the band back together: At this point I had never heard them play live.

“Why bother with them when you have the chance to do your own thing?”

“Because,” he said, “I will always have the opportunity to do my own thing, but I may not always be able to work with this band. And we never finished what we started out to say.”

Track Listing

Side One 18:02

  1. Angel’s Flight 4:00 C. Greenberg
  2. Vajra 4:20 G.E. Stinson
  3. Wheel of Dreams 4:46 G.E. Stinson & C. Greenberg
  4. Oriental Eyes 4:56 P. Maggini

Side Two 16:23

  1. Move the Clouds 3:08 G.E. Stinson
  2. A Thousand Teardrops 4:15 C. Greenberg
  3. Ariki (Hummingbird Spirit) 3:10 G.E. Stinson & C. Greenberg
  4. Marie 5:50, G.E. Stinson

Samples

Stream the entire album via MySpace

Shadowfax

Emil Richards, circa 1970's. photo courtesy Phil Maggini.
Emil Richards, circa 1970’s. photo courtesy Phil Maggini.

Additional Instrumentation:

  • Emil Richards: contra bass marimba, conga, Thai vibes on Ariki; kelon vibes anvil, gong on Oriental Eyes, contra bass marimba, rhythm logs, bell tree, tambourine on Vajra; vibes and crotales on Wheel of Dreams, windchimes and bells on Angel’s Flight. The percussion ensemble on Ariki was arramged by Emil Richards.
  • Alex de Grassi: 12 string acoustic guitar on the right channel of Vajra
  • Scott Cossu: piano on A Thousand Teardrops
  • Jamii Szmadzinski: violin and baritone violin on Move the Clouds and Marie
  • Bruce Malament: Fender Rhodes on Oriental Eyes

Credits

  • Produced by Chuck Greenberg
  • Recorded in May and June of 1982 at Studio America, Pasadena, CA
  • Recorded and Mixed by Joe Pollard
  • Second Engineer: Max Reese
  • Assistant Engineers: Pitt Kinsolving and Shep Lonsdale
  • Original Half-Speed Mastering by Jack Hunt, JVC Cutting Center
  • Matrix and Pressing by Record Technology Inc., Camarillo, CA
  • Cover Photo by Greg Edmonds
  • Design by Anne Ackerman

This recording was made on a modified MCI JH 16 recorder at 30 inches per second, and mixed to a Studer Mark III half-inch two-track recorder, using no noise reduction, limiting or compression.

Thanks to Joy Horner, Dave Below, Marty Lishon, and World Percussion. Thanks also to Sherman Clay Pianos for the use of the Kimball Bosendorfer Grand Piano, and to Zeus Audio Systems. Special thanks to Joe Pollard, to Emil Richards for the magic, and to Windham Hill.

  • All Selections Greenshadow Music (BMI)
  • Administered by Windham Hill Music (BMI)
  • Manufactured by Windham Hill Productions Inc.

(c) (p) Windham Hill Records 1982

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