Don't say "new age" around Will Ackerman, though his label has been the home to acoustic instrumental music for 30 years. The pastoral beauty prized by Windham Hill is conjured by the moon-and-evergreens label logo, by the four volume titles here ("Elements," "Peace," "Artistry" and "Excursions") and most of all by Clockwork Alex de Grassi; Moon George Winston; Peace Piece Liz Story; Time After Time Tuck & Patti; Hugh Nightnoise; several tracks by Ackerman; unique recordings by Janis Ian, Jane Siberry and Bobby McFerrin, and the rest of these 67 Windham Hill favorites!
In the 48-page booklet that accompanies the handsome, hardbound packaging of A Quiet Revolution
, long-time producer Dawn Atkinson succinctly defines Windham Hill's core sound as "acoustically rooted music that is a blend of folk, classical and jazz influences." Guitarist Will Ackerman, who launched the label in 1976 with a tiny pressing of solo works, boils its essence down to a single word, adding "it's a word seldom associated with the music industry: innocence." Windham Hill rocked the music trade in the late 1970s by turning down the volume and cultivating intelligent, heart-probing, all-instrumental music that--largely through word of mouth--won over legions of fans attracted to the label's earthy vibe, elevated craftsmanship, and overriding sense of purity. Much of what gave Windham Hill its soul-stirring allure is nicely displayed in this four-disc anthology--a 67-track compilation that includes four previously unreleased live tracks (including "Because It's There" by guitarist Michael Hedges and "Clockwork" by Alex de Grassi).
The music on A Quiet Revolution
is sorted by general style, not chronologically. Discs 1 and 2, Elements
, focus more on the label's pastoral textures, and disc 3 (Artistry
) explores more ambitious or ensemble pieces. Disc 4 (Excursions
) might be viewed by some long-time fans as "Wayward Hill," with its assortment of latter-day vocal stylings and traces of smooth jazz. Beyond that and a few other head-scratching choices, there's much to like here, with stellar tracks from Liz Story (whose brilliant Solid Colors
may be the label's finest release) to works from Ackerman, George Winston, Nightnoise, and lesser-known artists, such as guitarist W.G. Snuffy Walden and his small gem "Angela Smiled." Enlightening liner notes are by Echoes
radio host John Diliberto and former Billboard
writer (and past Windham Hill staffer) Sam Sutherland. For newcomers curious to know what the blissful fuss was all about a few decades ago, A Quiet Revolution
provides an inviting overview. --Terry Wood