WH 1029 Shadowfax Shadowdance
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.
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 members are active on the web, catch up with them on Facebook and MySpace.
A Song for My Brother
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)
- G.E. Stinson: 6&12 string guitars, vocal on Brown Rice
- Chuck Greenberg: lyricon, tenor sax, flute
- Phil Maggini: bass
- Stuart Nevitt: drums, percussion, kelon vibes on Shadowdance
- Jared Stewart: piano, synthesizers
- Jamii Szmadzinski: violin, baritone violin, alto psaltry on New Electric India
- 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
2. Shadowdance 1983
3. The Dreams of Children 1984
4. Too Far to Whisper 1986