Posts Tagged ‘Windham Hill’

Shambhu Brings Windham Hill Sound to Echoes Tonight

January 7, 2014

Guitarist Shambhu Plays Live on Echoes Tonight.

Shambhu, Premik Tubbs, Eugene Friesen on Echoes

Shambhu, Premik Tubbs, Eugene Friesen on Echoes

Windham Hill Records hasn’t been around for many years, but their influence remains strong.  Today, we’ll hear from another guitar player whose music was shaped by the recordings of Will Ackerman and Alex De GrassiShambhu is one of those musicians. In fact, Windham Hill founder Will Ackerman produced his album, Dreaming of Now.  His actual name is Neil Vineberg but he uses Shambhu as his stage name, which was given to him by spiritual Dreaming of Nowleader Sri Chinmoy.  He comes into the Echoes Living Room with famed cellist Eugene Friesen from the Paul Winter Consort and windplayer Premik Tubbs.  They’ll play live tonight on Echoes.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

Oblivion-cvrJoin the Echoes CD of the Month Club.  Hammock’s Oblivion Hymns is our January   CD of the Month.  You’ll get great CDs and help support Echoes at the same time.   You can do it all right here.

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THE ECHOES LIVING ROOM CONCERTS VOLUME 19

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AN ECHOES CHRISTMAS

December 24, 2013

Celebrate Christmas with the Soundscape of Echoes.
On Christmas Eve it’s An Echoes Night Before Christmas
On Christmas Day enjoy An Echoes Christmas
&
Hear An Echoes Celtic Sonic Seasonings on Demand for Free at Echoes On-Line

Blizzard-2010-TreesAs a special gift to Echoes Listeners you can stream our Celtic Sonic Seasonings show with Moya Brennan and Jeff Johnson, Brian Dunning & Wendy Goodwin for FREE all day December 24 & 25

And if that’s not enough, on-line subscribers can dial up a six hour Wordless Echoes Christmas stream.  You can try it for $2.99 at Echoes On-Line.

For an Echoes Night Before Christmas hear seasonal music from Mree, Sarah McLachlan, and Camera Obscura.  We’ll hear a new Christmas song from SHEL and a guitar orchestra rendition of The Nutcracker from Stephen Bennett that is stunning. We’ll hear an electronic classic from Ralph Lundsten’s “Nordic Nature Symphony #3” and an electronic Christmas from Geigertek.

And just when you think it’s all over, end your Christmas day with An Echoes Christmas. It’s more Christmas sounds from Ólafur Arnalds, R. Carlos Nakai, Agnes Obel and more.

And for those hours when Echoes isn’t on. stream An Echoes Celtic Sonic Seasonings for free on demand all day on December 24 & 25..

Aisling Jarvis, Moya Brennan, Cormac De Barra in Echoes Living Room

Aisling Jarvis, Moya Brennan, Cormac De Barra in Echoes Living Room

I don’t know how Celtic music came to signify winter, but  slow aires and Celtic harps seem to exemplify a quieter and more atmospheric side of the Winter season.  We’ve dipped into that sound on Sonic Seasonings several times over the years and we’re doing it again.

Last week we recorded our seasonal live performance show, recording two concerts in 24 hours on opposite coasts.  You can hear them tonight on an Echoes Celtic Sonic Seasonings.

IrishChristmasThis year we have two artists returning.  On Monday afternoon, December 9, with fresh fallen snow on the ground, Moya Brennan came to the Echoes living room with her long time partner, harpist Cormac De Barra and her daughter Aisling Jarvis.  In a testament to time, I first interviewed Moya backstage at the TLA Theater in Philadelphia in 1993 when she was pregnant with Aisling.  And at the time, Moya spelled her name Máire Ní Bhraonáin.

Moya is acclaimed as the singer of Clannad, the Irish band that was part of the Celtic renaissance that began in the 1970s.  That band reformed this year for the album, Nadur, but Moya has been solo for the last 15 years.  This past year she released the album, Affinity with Cormac De Barra under the banner of Voices & Harps.  She also re-released her album, An Irish Christmas with bonus tracks.  We’ll hear this trio in a weave of harp strings and heart-rending harmonies when they play live on An Echoes Celtic Sonic Seasonings.

Jeff Johnson, Wendy Goodwin, Brian Dunning recording Echoes Celtic Sonic Seasonings

Jeff Johnson, Wendy Goodwin, Brian Dunning recording Echoes Celtic Sonic Seasonings

Immediately following Moya’s show in our southeastern Pennsylvania living room, Jeff Towne and I hopped on a flight to Seattle and the next day, December 10, we were in the home studio of keyboardist Jeff Johnson where he’d gathered his Celtic trio of flutist Brian Dunning and violinist Wendy Goodwin.
Jeff Johnson is a veteran of Celtic cross-over and devotional albums with dozens of CDs out on his own Ark Music label as well as Windham Hill and Hearts of Space Records.  Brian Dunning has been with him on many of those

Goodwin, Johnson, Dunning, Diliberto

Goodwin, Johnson, Dunning, Diliberto

recordings.  He has a connection to the early Celtic renaisance as a member of the band Nightnoise which included guitarist Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and his sister, singer and keyboardist Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill.  Mícheál, who died in 2006 had been a member of the legendary and influential Bothy Band.  They are joined by Portland-based violinist Wendy Goodwin who released her solo debut, Place of Refuge last year. Collectively, the trio released a gorgeous CD, of pastoral, ambient winter chamber works called Winterfold this past fall and it’s in the Echoes Top 25 for 2013
WinterfoldThe trio crammed into Johnson’s studio and played beautiful arrangements of music from this album and drew from tracks that have appeared on Johnson & Dunning’s A Quiet Knowing and Under the Wonder Sky albums and a few Windham Hill collections.

So sit back and enjoy the best Christmas music you’ll hear this year; a sound that will take you out of the shopping malls and into your heart on An Echoes Celtic Sonic Seasonings streaming now for free.

And for an all-instrumental Christmas with no spoken interruptions, dial up Christmas Echoes at Echoes On-Line.  Six hours of uninterrupted non-shopping mall seasonal bliss.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

GIVE THE GIFT OF THE ECHOES CD OF THE MONTH CLUB

FoundJoin the Echoes CD of the Month Club now and you can put David Helping and Jon Jenkins’ Found under somebodies Christmas tree.  It’s our December  CD of the Month.  You’ll get great CDs and help support Echoes at the same time.   You can do it all right here.

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GIVE THEM THE GIFT OF TRANSMISSIONS:
THE ECHOES LIVING ROOM CONCERTS VOLUME 19

Join us on Facebook where you’ll get all the Echoes news so you won’t be left behind when Dead Can Dance appear on the show, Tangerine Dream tours or Brian Eno drops a new iPad album. Or Follow us on Twitter@echoesradio.

Now you can go Mobile with Echoes On-Line. Find out how you can listen to Echoes 24/7 wherever you are on your iPhone, iPad or Droid.

A Summer Solstice CD of the Month: Todd Boston’s Touched by the Sun.

May 31, 2012

Todd Boston’s Touched by the Sun is Echoes June CD of the Month

Hear an interview with Todd Boston Tuesday, 10/9/2012 on Echoes.

Todd Boston’s “Touched by the Sun”

In June, the month when the sun has unchallenged dominion, guitarist Todd Boston has released the perfect album for summer days. Touched by the Sun is a thematic suite centered on images of the solar orb and built around the global chamber sound that Boston has been working with for a few years. He has an Indian fusion duo with percussionist Ramesh Kannan called Urban Nature and he released a solo album, Alive, that was an Echoes CD of the Month in October 2010.  At that time he was already working with guitarist Will Ackerman, the founder of Windham Hill Records. Back then, I wrote that I wasn’t sure how much working with Ackerman would improve upon Alive.  The answer is, quite a bit.

A child of the Windham Hill generation, Boston heard seminal records by guitarists like Ackerman, Alex De Grassi and Michael Hedges on Echoes when he was growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs. Now he’s made a convincing statement to be considered in their ranks.  Ackerman brings in his posse of side musicians including cellist Eugene Friesen, bassists Tony Levin and Michael Manring and violinist Charlie Bisharat, allowing Boston to expand his eastern fusions to embrace Celtic, gypsy and chamber music in a sound of pastoral repose and gentle dances.  It’s Bisharat who brings the gypsy sound, wailing on tracks like “Sol Rising” and “The Brightest Night” with a free-form ecstatic brand of soloing.

Boston has adapted the techniques of his heroes, like the two-handed tapping of Hedges, as well as the ragas of Ali Akbar Khan, the Indian sarod master with whom he studied.  His  guitar playing often has Indian inflections and he also plays the dotar – kind of a baby sarod – to good effect especially on tracks like “Sol Rising.” Through the wonders of multi-tracking, he also plays flute on several tracks including “Full Moon” which carries a Celtic-suffused melody against Bisharat’s violin accents.

Boston earned nearly $25,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to fund the record, and you can hear every penny of it on this beautifully produced CD. Here’s one of several Kickstarter videos Boston made about his recording sessions with Will Ackerman.

Touched by the Sun sits comfortably in a world fusion landscape that goes back to The Paul Winter Consort, Shakti, Oregon and Ancient Future.  Ackerman’s influence on the impeccable, expansive sound and arrangements elevate Todd Boston out of the finger-style guitarists glut.

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Hear an interview with Todd Boston Tuesday, 10/9/2012 on Echoes..

You get great CDs like Todd Boston’s Touched by the Sun by becoming a member of the Echoes CD of the Month Club.  Follow the link and see what you’ve been missing.

Join us on Facebook where you’ll get all the Echoes news.

The Best of Michael Hedges-1 of 20 Icons of Echoes

May 20, 2010

The Man Who Revolutionized Finger-style Guitar.

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Tonight, May 20, 2010, we feature Michael Hedges, #12 among 20 Icons of Echoes. All of his instrumental albums set the standard for modern acoustic guitar playing. Here are my favorites.

Five  Best Michael Hedges CDs, Plus One

1 Taproot

This is a middle period Hedges album and a conceptual work. It’s a musical biography, inspired by the symbology of the famed late mythologist, Joseph Campbell. The music is wide-ranging and features one of Hedges’ signature songs, the stroming assualt of “Ritual Path” as well as the sweetness of “Chava’s Song.”

2-Oracle

I know purists might place this later on the list, but I always thought it was Hedges’ most perfectly conceived album. In addition to his wonderful guitar playing on tunes like “Ignition” it also has some beautiful arrangements, including Hedges playing flute and harmonica and Michael Manring on electric bass, that highlight him as a composer as much as a guitarist.

3- Aerial Boundaries

His second solo album, it has classic Hedges tracks like “Rickover’s Dream.” It also includes an experiment from his Peabody  Conservatory of Music days, “Spare Change.” You can be astounded by the complexity of “Menage a Trois” or the sweetness of his cover of Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush.”

4-Breakfast in the Field

This is the kind of debut that makes a musician a favorite for life.  It’s hard to believe Breakfast in the Field came out in 1981, nearly 30 years ago.  Breakfast in the Field was a shot across the bow of acoustic guitar albums with songs like “The Happy Couple,” and “Silent Anticipations.”

5-Live on the Double Planet

This album gives an inkling of the power Michael Hedges brought to his live performances. It features many of his best known tunes in definitive performances as well as covers of songs by Hendrix and The Beatles.  Yes, Michael sings on this one, but that wasn’t always such a bad thing.

PLUS ONE: Beyond Boundaries

I usually don’t put anthologies in these lists, but if I wanted to introduce somebody to the Hedge’s oeuvre, I’d probably go with Beyond Boundaries. And not because I wrote the liner notes. It’s all instrumental and features his best songs from across his first 4 studio albums as well as some live tracks recorded on Echoes. And I’m not recommending it for that reason either.

You can hear an interview with Michael Hedges tonight , May 20, on Echoes and see the complete list of 20 Icons of Echoes.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

The Five Best George Winston CDs

August 14, 2009
George Winston in Original Echoes Living Room

George Winston in Original Echoes Living Room

George Winston Then & Now

George Winston is both loved and reviled. His impressionistic solo piano albums came to define the Windham Hill sound and he’s among the first musicians most people think of when you say, New Age.  Praised with five and four star reviews from Downbeat and Rolling Stone for his debut album,  Autumn,  in 1980, he’s since come to be synonymous with shlock for many critics.  But those critics are missing the point.   Winston took the lyricism and mood that made Keith Jarrett‘s music so popular and refined them into what he called “folk piano” on his first Windham Hill album, Autumn.  It launched a million solo pianists, yet none of them has attained George Winston’s almost transcendent marriage of melody and atmosphere.

Winston is an eclectic artists who cites The Doors and Tangerine Dream, Fats Waller and John ColtranePhilip Aaberg and  Steve Reich as influences.  He occasionally goes off and pays tribute to these artists, doing entire albums of Vince Guaraldi compositions, for instance.  With one exception, he’s less successful playing their music, which often reveals his own limitations as a pianist.  Nothing wrong with limitations, everyone’s got them.  But when he plays inside those limitations, George Winston moves outside the box.
As part of Echoes Then & Now series in our 20th Anniversary celebration, we’re featuring the music of George Winston.  You can hear his show tonight, August 14.  All of Winston’s albums have been reissued in recent years with bonus tracks and illuminating liner notes from the artist.

FIVE BEST GEORGE WINSTON CDS.

Forest 1 Forest
Forest is the CD that brought me into the Winston fold.  I liked his earlier albums, but on Forest, George Winston went deeper, extending his ringing, open-air, melodic sound, embracing the minimalist influences of Steve Reich on “Tamarack Pines,” the jazz harmonies of the late-organist Larry Young‘s “The Cradle” and the slow ragtime of William Bolcom‘s “Graceful Ghost.  But whether playing the challenging inside-the-piano effects of his “Forbidden Forest” or the inviting themes of “Cloudy This Morning,” George Winston’s gifted lyricism remains true.

51ZnOtkI+pL._SL500_AA240_2 Autumn
This is the album that started it all, although it’s techically his second album, it was his first on Windham Hill Records.  The opening “Colors/Dance” rings with the open clarity of the Montana plains where Winston grew up.  “Woods,” with its quasi-classical arpeggios, seems to dance in the air.  And so it goes throughout Autumn as the pianist unfolds his melodies in what sounds like spontaneous reverie.

51RBD51D6DL._SL500_AA240_3 Night Divides the Day-The Music of the Doors
I think this may be the least well-received Winston album by his fans, but I thought there were a couple tracks on here that attained true interpretive brilliance and revealed the depth and breadth of George Winston’s vision.  he reimagined   “My Wild Love” from a drunken stomp into a zen piano koan and his take on “Bird of Prey,” based on a Jim Morrison poem aspires to the imagery Morrison wrote.  His shimmering rendition of “Crystal Ship” is magical and serene.   One of the thrills of Echoes was the Living room concert that The Doors’ Ray Manzarek and George Winston played together, facing each other on twin grand pianos.

51CO4ICumoL._SL500_AA240_4 Winter Into Spring
Never a florid player, Winston’s best music emerges from those spaces where the melody finds its own refractions, unimpeded by the pointless ornamentation and quasi-classical flourishes that tarnish so many pianists who followed in his wake.  song.    Winter Into Spring was Winston’s second album for Windham Hill Records and following up on the themes of Autum, it continues down the seasonal road and includes several of Winston’s signature compositions including “January Stars” and the extended ruminations of “Rain.”

41eIISJsZJL._SL500_AA240_5 December
December is a Christmas album that transcends the season.  Mixing traditional carols, a couple of classical works and his own originals, Winston takes you into winter from the cover photo of a snow blanketed field to his final invocation, “Peace.”  Winston’s piano drops notes with icy clarity into a winter silence, rippling through “Carol of Bells” and coaxing dark introspective moods from his own suite, “Night,” which includes Winston playing inside the piano like a harp. Who would’ve thought that the gentle melodies of “Peace” were inspired by the soundtrack to TV’s The Outer Limits?

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000000NKL/echoes

B00005NNDO december

George Winston is both loved and reviled. His impressionistic solo piano albums have come to define the Windham Hill sound and he’s among the first musician most people think of when you say, New Age.  Praised with five and four star reviews from Downbeat and Rolling Stone upon his debut album Autumn in 1980, he’s since come to be synonymous with shlock for many critics.
But George Winston, despite his continued popularity, is still an underrated pianist.  He took the lyricism and mood that made Keith Jarrett’s music so popular and refined them into what he called “folk piano” on his first Windham Hill album, Autumn.  It launched a million solo pianists, yet none of them has attained George Winston’s almost transcendent marriage of melody and atmosphere.
Winston is an eclectic artists who cite’s The Doors and Tangerine Dream, Fats Waller and Phillip Aaberg, Steve Reich and Alex De Grassi as influences.  He often goes off and pays tribute to these artists, doing entire albums of Vince Guaraldi compositions.  With one exception, he’s less successful there playing music that often reveals his own limitations as a pianist.  Nothing wrong with limitations, everyone’s got them.  But when he plays inside those limitations, George Winston moves outside the box.
As part of Echoes Then & Now series in our 20th Anniversary celebration, we’re featuring the music of George Winston.  You can hear his show tonite, August 14.  All of Winston’s albums have been reissued in recent years with Bonus tracks and illuminating liner notes from the artist.

Five Best George Winston CDs

GEORGE WINSTON
Forest
Forest is the CD that brought me into the Winston fold.  I liked his earlier albums, but on Forest, George Winston went deeper, extending his ringing, open-air, melodic sound, embracing the minimalist influences of Steve Reich on “Tamarack Pines,” the jazz harmonies of the late organist Larry Young’s “The Cradle” and the slow ragtime of William Bolcom’s “Graceful Ghost.  But whether playing the challenging inside-the-piano effects of his “Forbidden Forest” or the inviting themes of “Cloudy This Morning,” George Winston’s gifted lyricism remains true.

Autumn
This is the album that started it all, although it’s techically his second album, it was his first on Windham Hill Records.  The opening “Colors/Dance” rings with the open clarity of the Montana plains where Winston grew up.  “Woods,” with its quasi-classical arpeggios, seems to dance in the air.  And so it goes throughout Autumn as the pianist unfolds his melodies in what sounds like spontaneous reverie.

Night Divides the Day-The Music of the Doors
I think this may be the least well-received Winston albums by his fans, but I thought there were a couple tracks on here that attained true interpretive brilliance and revealed the depth and breadth of George Winston’s vision.  His interpretation of My Wild Love as a zen piano koan is brilliant and his take on Bird of Prey, based on a Jim Morrison poem aspires to the imagery Morrison wrote.  And you can beat his shimmering rendition of “Crystal Ship.”  One of the thrills of Echoes was the Living room concert that Ray Manzarek and George Winston played together, facing each other on twin grand pianos.

WINTER INTO SPRING
Never a florid player, Winston’s best music emerges from those spaces where the melody finds its own refractions, unimpeded by the pointless ornamentation and quasi-classical flourishes that tarnish so many pianists who followed in his wake.  song.    WINTER INTO SPRING was Winston’s second album for Windham Hill Records and following up on the themes of AUTUMN, it continues down the seasonal road and includes several of Winston’s signature compositions including”January Stars” and the extended ruminations of “Rain.”

December
December is a Christmas album that transcends the season.  Mixing traditional carols, a couple of classical works and his own originals, Winston takes you into winter from the cover photo of a snow blanketed field to his final invocation, “Peace.”  Winston’s piano drops notes with icy clarity into a winter silence, rippling through “Carol of Bells” and coaxing dark introspective moods from his own suite, “Night,” which includes Winston playing inside the piano like a harp. Who would’ve thought that the gentle melodies of “Peace” were inspired by the soundtrack to TV’s The Outer Limits?

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Will Ackerman Then & Now: 5 Best CDs

August 6, 2009

Five Best Will Ackerman CDs

Will Ackerman @ Echoes

Will Ackerman @ Echoes

There are a few people of whom I can say, if not for them, I wouldn’t be here.  And that’s the case with Will Ackerman.  He founded Windham Hill Records, still a cornerstone of the music you hear on Echoes.  That would probably be enough, but he also launched the finger-style guitar renaissance.  It had already begun, as Will said in my liner notes to 41d1HFtQ2zL._SL500_AA240_A Quiet Revolution: 30 Years of Windham Hill Records: “You know there was a lot about that whole Takoma Records/John Fahey thing that was a beacon to me.” He meant that in terms of starting a label, but also, playing acoustic guitar. Fahey and Kottke opened the door, but Will Ackerman built the house.  His open-tuning approach is now dominant among finger-style guitar players.  But his influence has gone beyond that.  A new generation of rock musicians are listening to their parent’s record collections and bands like Balmorhea and Hammock cite him as an influence.

In Search of the Turtle\'s Navel I first heard Will Ackerman in 1975.  I was Music Director at WXPN in Philadelphia when I read a review of Will’s debut, The Search for the Turtle’s Navel in a radio trade sheet called Walrus.  I recall the album having a brown cover, before he changed it and the title for In Search of the Turtles’s Navel the next year. I’m not even sure it was even  Windham Hill Records yet.   Surprisingly, I didn’t meet Will until 1990 when we had the first of many extensive and wide-ranging interviews.  He’s been on Echoes many times since and has become a great friend of the show.

As we head toward our 20th anniversary, we’re listening back to some of the signature artists of Echoes.  On Friday, August 7, we’ll feature Will Ackerman: Then and Now.

Will has made a lot of records.  Surprisingly for an artist who has been recording for over three decades and whose early work is nothing if not seminal, I prefer his later and more mature recordings.  Sadly, most of his catalog is currently out of print, a criminal state of affairs for such a major artist.

THE 5 BEST WILL ACKERMAN ALBUMS

Returning: Pieces for Guitar 1970-2004 1 Returning (2004)
In 2004, Will Ackerman went back and recorded many of his signature tunes.  And you know what?  They sound a lot better now.  Cynics might view this as a ploy to retain control of his catalog, which since it was his first non-Windham Hill recording, it kind of was.  But his playing and the recording quality are sharper here than on those old Windham Hill favorites and Ackerman’s compositions have rarely sounded more poignant.   Returning sounds like your memory of that music.

51e-Yg-Z9CL._SL500_AA240_2 Hearing Voices (2001)
As I said in my Billboard magazine review in 2001, this is a brave album.   Ackerman enlists a group of singers including Samite, Happy Rhodes, Curtis King and Heather Rankin, to intone his quiet meditations.  Sometimes with English lyrics, just as often in Native tongues and imaginary dialects, Hearing Voices has a hymn-like quality.  It also features Ackerman’s only electric guitar playing on record at the time.

R-150-1350675-12119164073 Past Light (1983)
This is the earliest album in my list and another departure for Ackerman.  He weaves his guitar between the yearning lyricon playing of the late-Chuck Greenberg from Shadowfax, the tone-bending bass of Michael Manring, guitarist Michael Hedges and a few other WH stalwarts as well as Kronos Quartet.  A CD of intimate ruminations and conversations.

The Opening of Doors 4 The Opening of Doors (1992)
I really liked Will Ackerman’s music from the beginning, but this was the album that made me a fan.  I was seduced by Ackerman’s plaintive songs and simple but ornamented motifs that come across like sky paintings.  Ackerman surrounds himself with keyboardist Tim Story, oboist Paul McCandless and it even features metal monster guitarist Buckethead (Guns ‘n’ Rose, Bill Laswell).

Sound of Wind Driven RainSound of Wind Driven Rain (1998)
Sound of Wind Driven Rain has the familiar earmarks of earlier Ackerman albums with wistful  melodies flowing over a finger-picked trellis of arpeggios.  In addition to the usual accomplices — violinist Charlie Bisharat, oboist Paul McCandless and bassist Michael Manring — is Ugandan musician, Samite. His soaring voice lifts Ackerman’s “Hawk Dreaming” into a soulful hymn.  “Unconditional,”  played on a parlor guitar given him by Michael Hedges, has that timeless introspection that has made his music so enduring.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

25 Essential Echoes CDs for 2008

December 11, 2008

Digitonal Tops the 25 Essential Echoes CDs of 2008

Save Your Light for Darker Days The Echoes Listeners Poll is still open for less than a day, but here are the CDs we thought were essential for the year as judged by me (John Diliberto) and the Echoes staff. It’s not based on the most played CD, CDs of the month or any other “objective” criteria. These are the CDs, out of the 2000+ we received, that consistently inspired us over the year. Some years, it’s difficult to find 25 CDs that warrant being on the list, but this year, even more than a great year like 2007, the dividing line between the first and 25th choice has never been thinner. 2008 was just a great year for music.

I write more extensively about the 25 Essential Echoes CDs in an article on the Echoes website. It’ll have lots of links to soundfiles, pics and features on these artists.

Sumner McKane's What A Great Place To Be

Sumner McKane's What A Great Place To Be

For now, let me say that Digitonal’s Save Your Light for Darker Days floored me from the start and became deeper with each listening. It was the most sophisticated, intoxicating, inventive and emotive album of the year and defined that meeting of classical chamber and ambient music. It was nearly a toss-up between that and Sumner McKane‘s What a Great Place to Be. Like Digitonal, it was a CD of the Month and an album of deeply moving, but strangely nostalgic psychedelic Americana.

This was the soundscape of Echoes, 2008. The full list is below.
You can read my personal Top Ten Albums and Top Ten Songs in the Echoes Blog.

Be sure to make you own list and vote in the Echoes 2008 Listener Poll. There’s only a day left. You’ll be entered into a drawing to win all 25 of the top listener selections. Without giving anything away, I can assure you that many of the Essential titles will be in the listener poll.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

25 ESSENTIAL ECHOES CDs FOR 2008

1. Digitonal Save Your Light for Darker Days Just Music

2 Sumner McKane What A Great Place to Be Don’t Hit Your Sister Records

3

Balmorhea Rivers Arms Western Vinyl

4 Fernwood Almeria Self Released

5 Saul Stokes Villa Galaxia Binary/Stokesmusic

6 Jamshied Sharifi One Ceres Records

7 Ahn Trio Lullaby for My Favorite Insominac Sony BMG

8 Lights Out Asia Eyes Like Brontide N5md

9 Jami Sieber Unspoken Out Front Music
10 Bombay Dub Orchestra 3 Cities Six Degrees Records

11 Nik Bartsch’s Ronin Holon ECM Records

12 General Fuzz Soulful Filling Self Released
13 Qntal Qntal VI: Translucida Noir (Big Daddy)
14 Marconi Union A Lost Connection MU Transmissions

15 Hammock Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow Darla Records

16 John Gregorius Heaven and Earth Spotted Peccary


17 Gerry O’Beirne The Bog Bodies and Other Stories Self Released

18 Johann Johannsson Fordlandia 4AD/Touch

19 Ronn McFarlane Indigo Road Dorian Recordings

20 Biomusique The 10,000 Steps Kosmic Music

21 Anja Lechner and Vasillis Tsabropoulos Melos ECM Records

22 California Guitar Trio Echoes Inner Knot

23 Darshan Ambient From Pale Hands to Weary Eyes Lotuspike

24 Kevin Bartlett Glow in the Dark Aural Gratification

25 Alu Lobotomy Sessions Alu Music


Echo Location: John Gregorius “Heaven and Earth”

November 25, 2008

Heaven & Earth On his latest album, Heaven and EarthJohn Gregorius finds a meeting ground between Windham Hill fingerstyle guitar and ambient music.  

listen-icons-16x162 (You can hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.)

Progressive rock was known for it’s synthesizer and organ orchestrations and furious electric guitar runs, but a lot of musicians were attracted to a more pastoral side of that sound heard in the acoustic guitars of Mike Oldfield in Tubular Bells and Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips from Genesis. One of those musicians was John Gregorius. He’s a rock refugee who has played in a bunch of Southern California bands, but he went for a different approach on his debut, Heaven and Earth. It’s a sound that mixes ambient textures, world music touches and finger-style guitar.

No matter how elaborate his arrangements might be, the songs on Heaven and Earth begin on acoustic guitar.  Gregorius cites Genesis, but you can also hear the influence of Windham Hill guitarists like Will Ackerman and Michael Hedges in his playing.  He has a few purely solo tracks on the disc, like “Sackcloth to Ashes,” just to show the coordinates of ground zero.  Here’s a video of a solo version of “Heaven and Earth”

If this was just another acoustic solo guitar album, it would’ve been pleasant listening, but Heaven and Earth rises above when Gregorius’s acoustic tunes are set in ambient landscapes. A song like “Mercy” is based on finger-style guitar, but the lead is taken by a country-tinged electric over a Brian Eno-style soundscape that could’ve come off his Apollo album.

John Gregorius is a musician of eclectic tastes, but with a unified vision. You can tell he’s listening to acoustic players, but also has his fingers in rock and ambient music. A track called “Secret to Light” sets plaintive acoustic guitar in an atmosphere of growling, shoegazer rock textures and rolling drums played with mallets that come straight off the launch pad of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”

Folk, country, blues and world music are incorporated into John Gregorius’ playing. On “Pearls of Great Price,” he creates a meeting of Ambient Americana and Indian music, with udu drum and a guitar lead that sits between languid country blues and Indian raga.

John Gregorius’s new album, Heaven and Earth is out on Spotted Peccary records. It’s our Echoes CD of the Month for December. It will be featured on Monday’s Echoes broadcast. This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.                      listen-icons-16x161 (You can hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.)

John Dilibert0 ((( echoes )))

Arrested Musical Development: The 60s are over, the 70s too.

August 11, 2008

The midsummer of 2008 has been a trip down Memory Lane for live concerts. In the last two weeks, I’ve seen, or will be seeing, Alex De Grassi, Return to Forever, King Crimson and Manuel Göttsching/Ashra , all acts who came to their greatest renown in the 1970s.  It got me wondering about our penchant for both over-glorifying the past while also about acknowledging music that withstands the capriciousness of popular tastes.

In the midst of an Echoes Chamber session with Return to Forever guitarist, Al Di Meola, the 54-year-old musician went into a subdued rant about the music we heard as kids.  “We grew up in the greatest era ever, the 60s,” he proclaimed. “We still love the music we listened to when we were kids.  Our kids aren’t going to be able to say that. They’re going to be listening to the music we listened to when they get older.”

There is some truth to what he said, at least in regards to pop music. Certainly the music of the 60s and early 70s continues to hang on, powered by classic rock stations and turned into dogma by places like The School of Rock. But there’s also Rock of the 70s and Rock of the 80s format radio stations and I’m sure that 30 years from now, there will be a Rock of the 2000s format. I think every generation holds on to the music they heard in their teens and college years: 60s acid rock, 70s progressive rock, 80s punk, 90’s grunge.

Di Meola is mostly referring to pop music, because otherwise, he’s continued to explore new sounds and technology throughout his career as a listener and creator. But a nostalgic aroma was ever-present at the Return to Forever show I saw at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia. I was wondering why RTF en mass felt it was necessary to wave the flag for “live” music and rail against iPods and YouTube to a full house of some 4,000 people. The Anthology And Chick, baby, despite your claims that RTF got no radio airplay in the 70s, I know they got boatloads of spins from commercial jazz stations that were still around then, including WRVR in New York and WWDB in Philadelphia. College stations, like WXPN in Philadelphia, played this music to death and got RTF many of their fans, as evidenced by the 50-something demographic dominating the reunion audiences.  RTF’s performance thrilled those fans.  They didn’t play any new compositions other than the opening tune-up piece, and except for a mangled version of “Romantic Warrior,” they stuck to the recorded versions of most of them pretty faithfully, including the same somewhat dated synthesizer sounds that Corea used.

.De Man IaAlex de Grassi’s audience was substantionally smaller, but they to, were thrilled to hear this veteran of the finger-style guitar renaissance at Sellersville Theater.   Like RTF, much of his set was drawn from older material made during his glory years at Windham Hill Records. It was good seeing Alex playing solo, although nothing new was being revealed, something I wouldn’t say for his world fusion DeMania trio.

I’m hopeful, but not expectant for Manuel Göttsching who performs in Philadelphia and New York over the weekend of August 15th. New Age of EarthI know that he plans on playing classic music from Inventions for Electric Guitar  and New Age of Earth up through E2-E4. The most recent piece he’s reported to play, Die Mulde, dates back to 1997 and that’s very much in the 1970s sequencer style.  However, I’m still looking forward to that show, since Göttsching, like Klaus Schulze, has never played in the US.   It’s music I’ve never heard performed live, but I’m not expecting any revelations. It will probably be like seeing RTF, who I also didn’t get to see in the 70s. (BTW, can somebody update Ashra’s Wikipedia entry? It is woefully skimpy and inaccurate).

Of them all, King Crimson has continued exploring new dimensions in their heavy metal future shock sound. I’ve seen them twice in this millennium and both were exhilarating, ear-shredding performances full of precision, spontaneity and new music.  While their audience will certainly be from the same demographic that will attend De Grassi, RTF and Ashra shows, Krimson’s music continues to be exploratory, without pandering .

I too, love the artists of my formative years, and Echoes also maintains a loyalty to the pioneers we played early on like Will Ackerman, Tangerine Dream, Andreas Vollenweider, George Winston and Klaus Schulze. That music, along with Hendrix and the Beatles, Coltrane and Miles, Ultravox and Siouxsie & the Banshees, Philip Glass and Steve Reich  is all in my musical DNA.

But I don’t want to exist in a musical past like some artists and audiences who are in an arrested state of musical development, living a terminal adolescence with the music that informed their youths. I don’t want to think that the best music I’ll experience for the rest of my life came out 30 or so years ago.  When I see teenagers who are enthralled by the sound and imagery of the sixties, I don’t sometimes feel validated in my youthful tastes. but just as often, I feel like telling them to listen to your own music.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))


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