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Shadowfax biography
SHADOWFAX. Nice name for a progressive rock band. At least that's how they started off. Named after Gandalf's a horse in Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings. They are often classified as new age, but their first album really wasn't, it was rather quite like a more rocking version of OREGON and had a mixture of hard and soft songs. And really their latter albums weren't completely although they lost some of their harder edge and devoted themselves to more mellow fair.

Three of the founding members actually got together four years earlier in 1972, CHUCK GREENBERG - winds, G.E. STINSON - guitars, and PHIL MAGGINI - bass. DOUG MALUCHNIK joined on keyboards in 1973 and finally STUART NEVITT, who had worked with MALUCHNIK, came along in 1974 for drums/percussion and the ensemble was complete. Their first album, "Watercourse Way", was recorded in 1975 and released in 1976 on the ABC/Passport label. This album may not have been well know among progressive music fans, but with its spectacular cover art and well crafted music, it was a treasured item in the collections of those that knew them at the time. So much so that it was commented on in the CD liner notes of the re-release that fans were always showing up with well worn copies of the album requesting new versions be made available.

The band disappeared for a few years after they debut and then resurfaced on the Windham Hill label in 1982 with a self-titled album of new material. MALUCHNIK was out but they brought in a few extra musicians who contributed additional instrumentation on various songs. In 1983 they released "Shadowdance", which saw them getting a little heavier. JARED STEWART was brought in for full time keyboards along with JAMIL SMADZINSKI, who had contributed to a couple songs on the previous albums, as a violinist for all the tracks. Once again they had several guest musicians on board. They even brought back two pieces from their first Passport albums. Next came "Dreams Of Children", 1984, which is probably the Windham Hill album that comes closest to the heaviness present in of some of the music on "Watercourse Way". DAVID LEWIS replaced their keyboardist from the last album. 1986's "Too Far To Whisper" saw the band returning to a more 'new age' style overall. The core band remained the same, except for the violin seat, filled by CHARLES BISHARAT, and had another set of special guests contributing to various tracks. They moved on to another label and cranked out five more more

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What Goes Around: The Best Of ShadowfaxWhat Goes Around: The Best Of Shadowfax
Audio CD$2.47
$0.87 (used)
Too Far to WhisperToo Far to Whisper
1986 Windham Hill Records 1990
Audio CD$35.00
$0.41 (used)
Magic TheaterMagic Theater
Earthbeat 1994
Audio CD$14.79
$0.45 (used)
Folksongs for a Nuclear VillageFolksongs for a Nuclear Village
Capitol 1988
Audio CD$18.52
$1.35 (used)
Windham Hill Records 1997
Audio CD$44.99
$2.42 (used)
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Lot of 2 George Winston Records Autumn December 1980s Bonus Shadowfax Record USD $14.00 Buy It Now 4 days
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A WINTER'S SOLSTICE Original LP (WH-1045) Liz Story, Shadowfax, William Ackerman USD $8.00 Buy It Now 10 days
A WINTER'S SOLSTICE Original LP (WH-1045) Liz Story, Shadowfax, William Ackerman USD $10.00 Buy It Now 10 days
A Winter's Solstice (1985 Windham Hill LP Playtested WH1045) Liz Story Shadowfax USD $6.88 Buy It Now 10 days

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SHADOWFAX discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

SHADOWFAX top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.84 | 47 ratings
Watercourse Way
3.32 | 10 ratings
3.27 | 17 ratings
2.05 | 13 ratings
The dreams of children
3.00 | 7 ratings
Too far to whisper
2.50 | 9 ratings
Folksongs for a Nuclear Village
3.50 | 8 ratings
The odd get even
2.12 | 5 ratings
2.22 | 4 ratings
Magic theater

SHADOWFAX Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings

SHADOWFAX Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SHADOWFAX Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.50 | 2 ratings
Pure Shadowfax

SHADOWFAX Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.50 | 2 ratings
The Orangutan Gang (Strikes Back)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Watercourse Way by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.84 | 47 ratings

Watercourse Way
Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

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.

 Shadowfax by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.32 | 10 ratings

Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by zwordser

3 stars This self-titled album was my introduction to the band. I admit that I found it at random, and the only reason I got it was because I liked the name (yep, as far as I know, named after Gandalf's horse); I had no idea what the band sounded like. However, as this was a Windham Hill release, I was expecting something light, perhaps new age sounding, which is basically what I got. However, upon listening a little closer a few more times I noticed that it wasn't just your average new age: there was something a little more to it. I heard shades of familiarity, however distant, with some of my more prized prog rock music. And after a bit of research, I came to find out that Shadowfax indeed began their career in the 70s with the much more progressive sounding Watercourse Way (review of which I have also submitted), and did not release Shadowfax until 6 years later in the early 80's. They veered a bit away from prog in the 80's, except instead of moving towards pop (like many prog bands did) they went to new age/easy listening. Pretty much perfect for a Windham Hill release.

I've come to think of the album as "prog lite". There are parallels with the lighter tracks from Watercourse Way, but gone are the truly jazzy themes, vocals, hard drumming and electric guitar. The music is, for the most part, calming and evocative of a peaceful natural world. The best songs to my ears are the first two tracks: Angel's Flight and Vajra, which are two of the slightly proggy tracks that have a touch of off-beat rhythm and some excellent acoustic guitar. There are no exceptionally memorable tracks, but the album is good either for background listening (when you are doing something and don't want to be too distracted or emotionally swept away) or perhaps it could be good for meditation. It's a good album for those who appreciate prog, but occasionally like to dabble in or chill with light new age a bit. I give it 2.5 stars.

 Watercourse Way by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.84 | 47 ratings

Watercourse Way
Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by zwordser

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; it's really, really good, one of the better jazz-rock/symphonic albums that I have heard to date. True, Shadowfax is classified as "crossover", and considering their later career, I suppose they are. But Watercourse Way is much heavier, and to my ears, sounds more passionate than at least some of their later albums (four of which I have heard as of writing this review). Shadowfax went much lighter, more like New Age music after this album. Perhaps thats why Watercourse Way does not get as much attention. I wouldn't say the band's path was necessarily a mistake , as I don't know the details of their history and can't judge. However, after hearing Watercourse Way, I can't help but wonder if they could have become one of the more preeminent prog acts had they chosen to continue with a similar sound, rather than moving into new agey territory.

In any case, Watercourse Way is worth a listen for anyone who really likes jazz/rock, symphonic, and/or eclectic prog. It just sounds so progressive, with all the elements: multiple instruments, (including ethnic ones like the sitar), shifting time signatures, a mix of harder and softer tunes, and complex arrangements, which are, IMO, very good ones, on par with many of the best prog bands of the 70's. As it is, I suppose the album could be classified as a "hidden gem". A solid 4.2 stars.

 The dreams of children by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1984
2.05 | 13 ratings

The dreams of children
Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by Argonaught

3 stars OK, this may not be the glorious Shadowfax of their earlier fusion era, but still a very decent and pleasant album nevertheless.

If The Dreams of Children were to be judged solely on the basis of its level of "proggyness", it could easily be found lacking ... but for those who don't mind - for a change - a short New Age intermezzo in their "prog" spiritual diet, this Shadowfax album may feel refreshing.

I wasn't disappointed. Matter of fact, the Shadowfax evolution between their debut Watercourse Way and The Dreams was a lot more palatable than that of some bands, who shape-shifted into commercial pop outfits in the 1980's.

No less that 3 stars for The Dreams, therefore

 Watercourse Way by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.84 | 47 ratings

Watercourse Way
Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

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.

 Shadowdance by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.27 | 17 ratings

Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by gr8dane

3 stars Since I don't have to talk to 'YOU' face to face ,I don't mind admitting that I was along for the New Age ride.There indeed was some pleasant music to be had.I was particularly fond of Patrick O'Hearn of Zappa fame.Also had me some Yanni,Andreas Vollenweider and some quality stuff released on the German 'Erdenklang' label that was really nice, along with the Peter Bauman run Private Music and of course Windham Hill.

At that time in the early 80s I think I heard Shadowfax on the local university radio station and quite liked it.This was the only one of theirs i had at the time.Like most New Age it is very light fare.These guys are a little hard to describe ,but I guess some jazz rock light sorta mellow Jean Luc Ponty,Passport and Mike Oldfield at times, along with the odd dash of folky Hobbit'ish music. TCat's go an agreeable description,so I won't go track by track myself.

So if you wanna sit by a lake at dusk with a nice bottle of wine and mellow out with some background music,you can't go wrong with this.

 Magic theater by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1994
2.22 | 4 ratings

Magic theater
Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

2 stars Shadowfax ended their recording career with an album slightly better than the previous "Esperanto". Just slightly. And to be completely honest, this band, aside from their first album, were just about the opposite of progressive. They recorded one great fusion album, and six years later reappeared as new age darlings on the insipid Windham Hill label. From that point on, they rejected excitement in their music, and created background sounds.

This album, like the majority of Shadowfax output, declines to have any character. Light, ambiguous ethnic beats form the backdrop of slight unchallenging melodies. The majority of the creativity went into the song titles, like Hey! Your Hat's On Backwards and How Much Does Zimbabwe?.

Get "Watercourse Way, don't bother with any of the others.

 Esperanto by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.12 | 5 ratings

Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

2 stars This album starts out in a promising way. Not great, by any means, but promising.

The album is called "Esperanto", after that manufactured language that was supposed to (in it's creator's mind) to become the world's universal language (good luck with that - I bet more people speak Klingon). The first two tracks, possibly in honor of the album title, are based on ambiguous tribal rhythms, with new agey synths filling out the sound. They are not bad, but, in this band's style since they became Windham Hill darlings, very unassuming.

After those two songs, the album reverts back to the new age groove (yawn), emphasizing Kenny G-like soprano sax. The worst offenders are the placid, oops, I mean flaccid songs written by bassist Phil Maggini. That he somehow convinced L Shankar to appear on one song, Tanah Lot, is a miracle (but it doesn't really help).

There are a few more "world beats" that pop up in some of the later songs, but the melodies played over them don't let the songs flourish.

I really hoped that leaving the WH label would allow these guys to break out, and get back to their roots (their first album, "Watercourse Way", was excellent). Sorry.

 The dreams of children by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1984
2.05 | 13 ratings

The dreams of children
Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

1 stars This album is a dissapointment in comparison to Shadowdance. It's as if they moved from their original sound to take on the label they had been given, that of being a new age band. I'm not saying that the album is not listenable, there are still some nice explorations, but the sound is getting to be more like the new age bands that shared the Windham Hill label, which is a shame.

The first track is "Another Country" which tries to sound like world music but is nothing like anything from another country. It's simple 4/4 time and the only "world-y" thing about it are the cool percussives. The melody seems mostly taken on by a flute and it tries to copy the sound in the previous album's title track, but doesn't come close. "Snowline" is nothing but a popular jazz sound and doesn't really do much. "The Big Song" starts out slowly and sounds like it might actually go somewhere, it even sounds like it's exploring new territory, but then the drums join in, the theme establishes itself and it becomes nothing but a rock instrumental. Nothing exciting here past the first minute. "The Dreams of Children" is nothing but a copy of mellow new age which is the opposite of the Shadowdance album...the Shadowdance album demands to be listened to while this title track only demands to be background music. Nothing special here either. "Word from the Village" contains vocals in what sounds like a tribal language and can almost be passed off as world music, but it sounds too polished and the sax actually ruins what could have been a nice piece. Fortunately, the middle part of this track loses the sax and becomes enjoyable until the sax comes back with some very light improv which messes up the song again. Heavy bass and keyboards introduce "Kindred Spirits". This horrible song sounds like an introduction to some terrible 80s hit song and you almost expect Peter Cetera to start singing one of his lousy top 40 songs that ruined the band "Chicago". "Shaman Song" has got the cool percussives again and is led by a violin. At least in this track, the violin doesn't try to spin off a traditional pop sound. This is the best track on the album and almost sounds more like it belongs on the Shadowdance album. Everything works together very nicely in this track and it doesn't sound like the typical new age faire that was around at the the time. This is the direction you wish the rest of the album would have went. "Above the Wailing Wall" is also another great track with an exciting guitar lead in the beginning. The violin takes over with a distintive sound that follows no real theme but is very interesting anyway. The guitar comes back with the original theme, then wanders off into variant forms along with the violin but it fades out all too soon.

So, other that the last two tracks, this is mostly just convoluted new age music. New age music did have some highlights, but there is nothing new here, it's just the same tired worn- out formulaic sound over some nice percussion. I would recommend the previous album "Shadowdance" over this one by quite a large margin. Too bad the band did not continue exploring the sounds and complex rhythms from that album. Instead they attempted to lighten their sound and go to where the money seemed to be, but this probably helped ruin their reputation of what might have been a great jazz/prog band.

 Shadowdance by SHADOWFAX album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.27 | 17 ratings

Shadowfax Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars My introduction to this band was through a Windham Hill sampler. The composition featured on the sampler was definately the stand-out track on the collection for me at was Shadowdance from this album. It interested me enough to check out their music a little deeper.

I have to say that it doesn't surprise me to see Shadowfax in the ProgArchives because out of the Windham HIll catalogue, which consists mostly of New Age music, this is the band that approaches prog closer than any. I have never heard the debut album, which is apparently the album that put them on this site. It is more highly reviewed than any of their other albums at least here among the proggers. But, quite frankly, I have to say I enjoy their music quite a bit. In this album, they do explore some tricky rhythms which change throughout within individual songs. They give some nice jazz-prog treatments to their compositions. They use many instruments that are unconventional. At least, as far as this album is concerned, I don't understand why this band is disliked among the proggers here.

"New Electric India" is the first track and is sounds pretty much they way the title suggests. It has a nice Indian feel to it and pays homage to the music. I'm not sure what the featured instrument is here, but it does sound almost sitar-ish. I'm definately not a fan of Indian music nor the sitar, but I do love the sound of this track. I feel there is a nice mix of eastern and western influences apparent in this track and some interesting sounds provided by Chinese water symbols and something called a kanjgerra. "Watercourse Way" is the second track and I have noticed that this track is also on the first album, but the timing is different so I don't know if this is a different version of the same composition or not. Either way, this one has more of an ensemble feel to it adding in more violin to the mix. It is nice to listen to, not really a stand-out track, but very fine nonetheless. "Ghost Bird" takes a different turn and is more atomospheric with a very heavy bass pattern. The bass continues to dominate throughout, but is parallelled almost exact by a tenor sax which provides a very unique sound and ambience to the piece. I also believe a bariton violin joins in there too. "Shadowdance" is definately a stand out track here and seems to be a favorite of many people that have heard it. It has a very interesting meter which I believe is something like 9/8 which switches back and forth with a 7/8 time signature, definately very prog-gish. The percussion stands out here throughout the piece where the strongest beat in each meter comes at the end of the meter and not at the beginning as most songs in every genre (except reggae). This makes for an interesting beat especially since the time signature changes back and forth. Percussion here consists of paiste gamelon gongs, bass flapamba, metal and bamboo angklung, and wood block marimba. Now that is definately non-traditional. The main theme of this piece is repeated several times in a sort of "verse" format even without words, and each "verse" adds in other instruments and sounds making this track very innovative and exciting. "Brown Rice/Karmapa Chenno" is the only track on the album with vocals, but the vocals are mostly in the background as a whisper. The longest track here is "A Song for My Brother" which is also on the Watercourse Way album, but again I don't know how much this version is changed from the original. This is also a very interesting track and very prog-like with some nice rhythms and instrumentation.

There really is a lot to hear on this album. It's a shame that since this music has been labeled new age that most people will only hear it as background music. If you listen to it that way, you are really missing out. You really have to listen to this music to appreciate it and to hear how much is going on here. This is not music to listen to while driving because you have to concentrate on it to appreciate it. These musicians are definately underappreciated because of the label given them and I think if those who appreciate good music really sat down and gave this album the attention it deserves, that the real depth of this music would be discovered. Give these musicians a chance and listen to this music the way it was meant to be listened to and not as background music. This really is great stuff! Maybe it's not essential to prog, but it should be better appreciated in my opinion.

Thanks to dean for the artist addition. and to Slartibartfast for the last updates

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