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Shadowfax Watercourse Way album cover
3.90 | 64 ratings | 7 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Shape Of A Word (7:39)
2. Linear Dance (5:51)
3. Petite Aubade (5:59)
4. Book Of Hours (6:37)
5. Watercourse Way (6:04)
6. Song For My Brother (9:41)

Total Time 41:51

Line-up / Musicians

- Phil Maggini / Bass, Cowbell
- Stuart Nevitt / Drums, Tabla, Percussion
- G.E. Stinson / Guitar, Sitar, Vocals
- Chuck Greenberg / Lyricon, Saxophone [Soprano], Flute, Recorder, Oboe, Clarinet
- Doug Maluchnik / Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer [Moog, Sequencer], Harpsichord, Keyboards [Chamberlin]

Releases information

LP Passport Records
CD Windham Hill 1985 (Remix, remaster)

Thanks to Slartibartfast for the addition
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SHADOWFAX Watercourse Way ratings distribution

(64 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

SHADOWFAX Watercourse Way reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is another album that didn't sound anything like I though it would. I first heard of this band a few years ago on an internet radio show that played this one song by them with some regularity. I really liked it, it was pastoral and it really grew on me. Anyway I find out later (after buying this cd) that this band is known more for playing New Age music. So I put it aside with the idea of listening to it down the road. Anyway when I did finally break it out I was shocked at how aggressive it was, especially the guitar. Some songs sound just like MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA especially the McLaughlin-like guitar. There are a variety of styles though along with numerous instruments. Bottom line is that this is a treasure chest for Prog fans.

"The Shape Of A Word" has some mellotron in this aggressive intro with prominant guitar. It settles some with piano as the tempo continues to shift. So much going on at times with all these intricate sounds. The guitar after 3 minutes really reminds me of McLaughlin from the "Birds Of Fire" album. Scorching guitar ! Mellotron before 5 minutes then we get this collage of sounds late. Fiery Fusion at it's best right there. "Linear Dance" is the only track with vocals. It hits the ground running. A Fusion flavoured guitar style here as well as he lights it up. Very intricate drum work as well. Impressive. Vocals after a minute as it settles. It turns aggressive again as vocals continue. "Petite Aubada" is an acoustic track that sounds completely different from the first two songs. Is this the same band ? Piano, flute, acoustic guitar, mellotron and harpsichord among other instruments can be heard in this pastoral tune.

"Book Of Hours" has lots of piano early as chunky bass, synths, drums and other sounds join in. The guitar is on fire 3 minutes in. It settles before 4 minutes with sax. Piano and drums join in as the sax continues. The guitar takes over before 6 minutes and lights things up. "Watercourse Way" is full of intricate sounds including aboe. Flute and piano lead before 4 minutes. "Song For My Brother" is my favourite track. It's kind of dark with some atmosphere early. It brightens before 1 1/2 minutes. Tasteful guitar 2 1/2 minutes in that becomes so emotional a minute later. A calm 5 1/2 minutes in then piano arrives. Beautiful. The guitar after 7 1/2 minutes is so moving as it gets aggressive again. Mellotron in this song as well. Almost 10 minutes of bliss.

This definitely deserves 4 stars in my opinion. A pleasure to listen to.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars If you had this album in your collection in the late '70's it would have been one of your more prized prog albums. While Shadowfax wasn't as well known as some the big names from the 1970's, partly because they only did one album then, their first one was absolutely stunning.

Better known for their usually mellower output for the Windham Hill label, this is a tasty mixture of heavy and mellow music. If you can judge an album by its musician's instruments, how about this: bass, cowbell, drums, tabla, percussion, guitar, sitar, vocals, lyricon, saxophone [soprano], flute, recorder, oboe, clarinet, piano, electric piano, synthesizer [moog, sequencer], harpsichord, keyboards [chamberlin]? OK some of those are fairly conventional, but what they did with those musically is something else. Still plenty of good things happening in 1976, but this album was in the same league as any of the great albums by the great names in progressive rock at the time. If you have to relate their music to similar artists, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gentle Giant, and Oregon come to mind in particular.

A testament to the power of this album, though they went for six years before releasing their next album, they still had a legion of loyal fans that would show up at concerts with well worn copies of this album wanting replacements. In 1985 the Windham Hill label granted us our wish and released it a new version remixed and with "additional recording", minus the excellent original cover art. Alas, this release is also out of print. As an interesting footnote, Larry Fast AKA Synergy, co-produced the original album. He was putting out albums on the same Passport Records label.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Now we're talking about category jazz-rock/fusion, aren't we ? And instead of later releases (presented under same name, but they sounds completely different), there is electric guitar, interesting drumming and, most importantly, idea. Many ideas actually, because this is it. I personally think that it's their only masterpiece, in sharp contrast to their later works, which are consisted of just one element (boredom, big void, nothingless, call it whatever you like), but that's not case of this album. Which is good.

But also strange sometimes, Linear Dance is song which I don't get at all, mostly singing here. Strange structure. And also, there's another problem for this album. Its jamming sound. But not in all songs, Petite Aubade, where flute takes place as main star is more symphonic prog like, combined with acoustic guitar. Not bad, welcomed quite a lot. But in total, I can't say I'm satisfied. I expected so much, when I hear their later work and then I saw this with so high rating. I wasn't that much wrong, but it's still strange sounding album with promising potential, which isn't turned into anything worth masterpiece status by my opinion. After some listening, I have to say that I quite like it, but I don't know why. Maybe it's because of little pieces, making together this ubiquitous album.

3(+), almost 4(-), but not that much good. But still pleasant to listen.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars Most here would agree that punk was the antithesis of prog and find few examples of artists that represent the missing link in the great transformation of 1976. Almost as many here would find new age music that dominated baby boomer nighttime programming through much of the 1980s to be similarly unrelated. Yet in SHADOWFAX we find a band that recorded a largely heavy prog album in 1975 and did not resurface until 1982 on Windham Hill Records in a style that allowed yuppies to feel somewhat connected to Eastern mysticism and palatable spirituality after all. But this is about the distant debut "Watercourse Way" aka the one with the lovely cover.

The music herein is more like a blend of mid period KING CRIMSON, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, OREGON JAN AKKERMAN, JADE WARRIOR and CAMEL. The first two tracks lean more to the former including the only one with vocals "Linear Dance" which I actually think is one of the better contributions here. The gentler side of the group is in the medieval sounding and titled "Petite Aubade" and the acoustically oriented title cut. In between all of these lies the monster closer "Song for my Brother", an ANDY LATIMER styled instrumental ballad that shuttles from ambient mood setting to riveting lead solo.

Unlike the MIKE OLDFIELDs and TANGERINE DREAMs of the prog world SHADOWFAX never got much chance to establish itself as a prog force before crossing over into new age. Hence "Watercourse Way" represents a damned river that can barely be recognized or even remembered 7 years downstream.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars More recognized for their lighter New Age early Eighties work, American group Shadowfax, taking their name from Gandalf's horse in J.R.R Tolkien's `The Lord of the Rings' books (it doesn't get more `proggy' than that!), initially began life in the early Seventies as more of an exotic jazz-fusion group with plenty of fire in their playing. For their debut album in 1976, `Watercourse Way', the highly-skilled five member band offered predominantly instrumental, frantic and busy fusion workouts that were interspersed with meditative acoustic/ethnic/raga pieces, symphonic grandiosity and a dash of chamber prog, making it a truly eclectic work that reminds of everyone from multi-instrumentalists Oregon, Jade Warrior, Kraan, Deuter, Gryphon, Dzyan, Mahavishnu Orchestra and even Yes - phew, got that?!

Don't let that beautiful and pastoral cover fool you - the breathless opener `The Shape of a Word' is overloaded with the most frantic delirious spasms of Mahavishnu Orchestra-like spiralling electric guitar splinters of G.E. Stinson (with a little bit of Yes/Steve Howe rapid fire runs and droning strains thrown in), keyboardist Doug Maluchnik's glistening piano trickles, Phil Maggini's swallowing bass gargles and Stuart Nevitt's snapping drum eruptions, with a few dreamier flashes and grooving spurts here and there, plus some Mellotron flecks providing a brief symphonic lift near the climax! `Linear Dance' oddly reminds of the early Kraan albums with its slurred vocals and constantly wailing guitars, which also gives it a rough-as-guts Krautrock vibe, but `Petite Audabe' is the first (very welcome!) relaxing break, a gentler acoustic guitar, flute, recorder and piano rumination with traces of whimsy and light chamber-prog elements that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an above-mentioned Oregon album or even the earlier Deuter works, as well as offering the first hints of where the band would head later on in the next decade.

The second side's `Book of Hours' adds in permeating hazy meditative atmospheres, the twisting-turning up-tempo fusion busyness this time laced with histrionic guitars bringing dirty grooves and groaning sitar experimentation that calls to mind German band Dzyan's albums. The title track `Watercourse Way' returns again to gentler folky acoustic sounds and light raga Deuter-like qualities mixed in with oboe, clarinet, flute and chimes. Reflective epic symphonic closer `Song from my Brother' is plied with plenty of regal Mellotron and Andy Latimar-flavoured majestic electric guitar rises, building slowly in victorious and dignified power with commanding drumming behind contemplative and ultimately uplifting jazzy piano passages.

There is tons going on in this album, all of it in its own way completely thrilling, and this diverse collection of sounds and styles impresses more and more on multiple listens. `Watercourse Way' proves to be a completely addictive and constantly surprising album, and considering the gentler direction the band later headed in, this energetic debut is a real one-off deserving of plenty more attention.

Four stars.

Latest members reviews

5 stars This album stands as an important testament to the progressive creativity and nature of contemporary music. I believe the prog scene of the 70's is the real beginning of all modern music. People consider the Beatles to hold that position, but I firmly feel the essence of the progressive communit ... (read more)

Report this review (#2962376) | Posted by Saysoe LTC SDC | Wednesday, October 18, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars For my very first album review on Progarchives, I've decided on one of the better albums I've heard that seems to be less well-know and perhaps doesn't get quite the attention it deserves. In fact, I'm a little surprised, as this is just such a great album; one of the better jazz-rock/symphonic alb ... (read more)

Report this review (#1077861) | Posted by zwordser | Saturday, November 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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