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GANDALF

Crossover Prog • Austria


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Gandalf biography
Instrumental electronic New Age with progressive elements


Heinz STOBL (aka GANDALF) can be called a "PAINTER OF MUSICAL LANDSCAPES", he is a composer, musician and producer of meanwhile numerous album releases. Taking his name from the good-hearted wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy "Lord of the Rings", GANDALF's work often reflects his love of nature, as well as his commitment to preserving the environment. He plays a great variety of instruments (various guitars, sax, piano, keyboards such as lead and string-synths, and percussion) and blends acoustic, electronic and spherical sounds and weaves folk elements into a symphonic structure to create his unmistakable and unique musical style. The sound is full, rich, and colourful. In his travels, GANDALF has been touched by the realization that far more things unite than separate the various people and cultures of the world, and his goal in composing and recording is to create music that dissolves boundaries.

The goal of this multi-sided musician is, to dissolve the boundaries between musical categories and styles and to create a cross-cultural global music. On his journeys through Europe, North and South America and Asia he came in touch with most different cultures and found out, that there are more things that unite than seperate the folks on this planet.

His first few albums - 1980's "Journey to an Imaginary Land", 1981's "Visions", 1982's "To Another Horizon" (conceptual), 1983's "Magic Theatre" (conceptual), and 1984's "Tale From a Long Forgotten Kingdom" (concept work) contained a definite prog rock edge, before adding such instruments as flutes and saxophones to the equation and heading in a more new age-ish direction. "Reflection" is a collection of essential pieces from 1986 to 1990. It is a fine introduction to one of the foremost Austrian synthesists. "From Source to Sea" (1988) is still one of top selling imports, but overall is probably more NewAgey than most folks here would like. You could try "Gallery of Dreams" (1992), with Steve HACKETT on guitars. The result is quite majestic with an energy that favours relaxation. "Fountain of Secrets" (2002) is surely destined to become another top seller. It is a stunning flowing, mix of melodic variety and sound layering where the music travels but never loses sight of its functions.

"Between Earth and Sky" (2003) is a harmonious and meditative compilation of the artistīs most beautiful tracks recorded be...
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Lotus LandLotus Land
Real Music 2007
Audio CD$10.07
$19.10 (used)
Sacred RiverSacred River
Real Music 2006
Audio CD$10.11
$10.09 (used)
DreamweaverDreamweaver
Real Music 2013
Audio CD$8.95
$12.41 (used)
SanctuarySanctuary
Real Music 2009
Audio CD$10.09
$4.77 (used)
Earthsong & StardanceEarthsong & Stardance
Real Music 2011
Audio CD$10.09
$8.25 (used)
Between Earth & SkyBetween Earth & Sky
Real Music 2003
Audio CD$8.99
$2.94 (used)
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GANDALF discography


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

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

3.31 | 18 ratings
Journey To An Imaginary Land
1980
3.55 | 17 ratings
Visions
1981
3.44 | 19 ratings
To Another Horizon
1982
3.80 | 12 ratings
Magic Theatre
1983
1.62 | 9 ratings
More Than Just a Seagull
1983
2.67 | 13 ratings
Tale From A Long Forgotten Kingdom
1984
2.04 | 4 ratings
The Shining
1985
2.81 | 13 ratings
The Universal Play
1987
2.61 | 8 ratings
From Source to Sea
1988
3.23 | 7 ratings
Invisible Power: A Symphonic Prayer
1989
3.00 | 2 ratings
Labyrinth
1990
2.29 | 5 ratings
Symphonic Landscapes
1990
2.95 | 3 ratings
The Stones Of Wisdom
1992
3.49 | 21 ratings
Gallery Of Dreams (featuring Steve Hackett)
1992
3.40 | 4 ratings
To Our Children's Children
1994
1.32 | 6 ratings
Colours Of The Earth
1994
2.00 | 4 ratings
Echoes From Ancient Dreams
1995
2.17 | 5 ratings
Gates to Secret Realities
1996
3.88 | 7 ratings
Barakaya - Trees Water Life
1997
2.09 | 4 ratings
Into The Light
1999
3.00 | 2 ratings
Samsara
1999
3.00 | 1 ratings
Visions 2001 (with bonus CD: Rare & Precious Pieces - 20 Years Of Gandalf)
2001
3.40 | 5 ratings
The Fountain of Secrets
2002
2.46 | 7 ratings
Colors Of A New Dawn
2004
3.00 | 1 ratings
Der Prophet
2005
3.89 | 9 ratings
Sacred River
2006
3.89 | 10 ratings
Lotus Land
2007
4.00 | 11 ratings
Sanctuary
2009
3.50 | 8 ratings
Erdenklang & Sternentanz
2011
2.75 | 8 ratings
Dreamweaver
2013

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

2.23 | 3 ratings
Live in Vienna (CD + DVD)
2008
3.95 | 3 ratings
Gandalf featuring Steve Hackett - Gallery Of Dreams Live (part 1)
2012
4.00 | 2 ratings
Gandalf featuring Steve Hackett - Gallery Of Dreams Live (part 2)
2012

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

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
Fantasia
1987
2.00 | 2 ratings
Reflection
1991
4.00 | 1 ratings
Magical Voyage
1995
4.25 | 4 ratings
Between Earth And Sky
2003

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
To Our Children's Children
1994

GANDALF Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Visions  by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.55 | 17 ratings

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Visions
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars The fruitful collaboration between Gandalf and the WEA label during the first half of the 80's continues with the Austrian's second album ''Visions'' in 1981.Gandalf plays almost all kind of string instruments and keyboards plus percussion, yet he receives for the first time some outside help, it came from Jatinder Thakur on tablas and Sinus' leader Robert Julian Horky on flute.The album was recorded at the Beginning Soundstudio.

''Visions'' is a beautiful mix of Tolkien-inspired fairytales and MIKE OLDFIELD-like instrumental Art Rock, drawing influences from a variety of musical sources, but always ending up in ethereal and atmospheric soundscapes with a proto-New Age touch.Eight mid-length instrumentals connected with seven short musical themes was the album's structure proposed by Gandalf.As these themes are basically working as short bridges between the longer tracks with folky, Electronic and Classical echoes, the bulk of the album's interest falls on the extended instrumental cuts.These are characterised by plenty of acoustic strings and lots of symphonic and orchestral keyboards, but manage to draw different colors every time.With the use of mandolin, percussion and sitar Gandalf introduces Mediterrenean and Eastern landscapes into the mix, which had always a strong Ethnic vibe.Other tracks are more symphonic, based on dominant layered synths or organ-washed intros with a bit of Classical influence in the background.And there is still this cosmic, TANGERINE DREAM-like numbers with the electronic samplers and the questionable sound of drum machines, which offer the more atmospheric moments of the release.The electric guitars are used sporadically, but even so the overall mood remains gentle and relaxing, always performed with a nice, instrumental depth.

The Austrian answer to MIKE OLDFIELD's attempts.Cinematic, dreamy and mellow instrumental music with strong doses of Ethnic orientations.Cool and recommended stuff, despite the absence of obvious dynamics.

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 Visions 2001 (with bonus CD: Rare & Precious Pieces - 20 Years Of Gandalf) by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Visions 2001 (with bonus CD: Rare & Precious Pieces - 20 Years Of Gandalf)
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars The Magician's Return

While the title might perhaps lead you to think that this is a re-recorded version of Gandalf's 1981 album Visions, the present album is actually a brand new 2001 studio album. It could be considered a belated follow-up album (a bit like Rick Wakeman's Return To The Centre Of The Earth), but it is hard to find any direct connections between Visions and Visions 2001. There are however plenty of indirect connections such as a general return to the sound and feel of the original Visions. Also the two albums are similarly structured with ambient pieces functioning as interludes between more uptempo and melodic pieces. The quality of the two albums is also similar, though overall I prefer the original Visions.

In keeping with his chosen artist name, Gandalf here made an album explicitly inspired by Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings. And he manages to capture the moods of that story and its magnificent fantasy worlds perfectly. As usual Gandalf plays a plethora of instruments including acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, and the wonderful sitar (that also was featured on the original Visions to great effect). On some passages Gandalf's electric guitar playing sounds very much like that of Steve Hackett (with whom Gandalf worked on Gallery Of Dreams, and obviously picked up more than a few tricks from Hackett). Other musicians involved here add bass and drums which ensures a strong Rock base of the sound, and yet others add flutes, whistles, and violin, which gives this a distinct Folk music nature.

Overall, Visions 2001 is a very high quality offering that deserves to be heard. There are however two main problems with it that prevent me from giving it the same high rating as the original Visions. One problem is that it is just a bit too long for its own good. With a running time of well over an hour it tends to wear the listener down despite the high quality of the music. The album would definitely have benefited from being shortened somewhat. The other problem is that there is one misplaced vocal number on this otherwise completely instrumental album. When this song started I first thought that Spotify had gone mad and started playing an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical soundtrack. It does not fit in at all among the rest of the tracks here and is a complete embarrassment in its own right. With these flaws taken into account, Visions 2001 is inferior to the original Visions album which was more coherent and effective. Still, if you liked that album, and Gandalf in general, you should get this album as well as it is clearly (despite its flaws) one of Gandalf's better albums.

Before ending I should mention that the album comes with a bonus CD called Rare & Precious Pieces featuring alternate versions of familiar pieces from throughout Gandalf's recording career (including his collaborations with Steve Hackett and Tracy Hitchings). It provides a decent overview, but it is better to start with the regular albums.

Recommended in addition to the original Visions

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 Invisible Power: A Symphonic Prayer by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.23 | 7 ratings

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Invisible Power: A Symphonic Prayer
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Powerful yet relaxing

Invisible Power: A Symphonic Prayer may well be Gandalf's most "symphonic" creation, though it would be a mistake to expect Symphonic Prog here. 'Symphonic' in this case means sweeping symphonic soundscapes, Classical piano, bombastic percussions, some lovely Steve Howe-like acoustic guitar segments, and occasional electric guitar parts. This album follows in a somewhat similar style to that of the previous From Source To Sea, and once again I am strongly reminded of Mike Oldfield (this time particularly of Incantations). Even though this is not as playful as many of Oldfield's works, it does share several similarities with Oldfield's music.

On his previous three albums - the vocal The Shining, the electronic The Universal Play, and the relaxing From Source To Sea - Gandalf was trying out new things, and seemed unsure of where he was going. He has (re)found himself on Invisible Power. As such, this was a return to form. Whatever you think about the style he has adopted here - and I must confess that it is not normally my cup of tea - it is hard to deny that he is very good at what he is doing here (which is something rather different from his first four albums). At first I planned to give it the same rating as From Source To Sea (two stars), but unlike that album Invisible Power grew on me with further listens.

Like on many of Gandalf's works there is also here a New-Age feel created by sampling of "nature sounds" (birds, waterfalls, winds, etc.) and a vague appeal to "spirituality" in the song and album titles. This time he has created a musical "prayer", presumably directed towards some "invisible power". Please note however, that these are only tendencies and it would be out of place to call this music New-Age overall. Symphonic-New-Age-Rock would maybe be a better term. If it is not an oxymoron, then "powerful relaxation" could perhaps describe this music.

One of the most memorable tracks here is the two part title track with which I was previously familiar from the very good live album Gallery Of Dreams Live (part 2). The live version is rockier and the jazzier aspects have been emphasised in the live version compared to this album version, but both are good in their own ways.

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 From Source to Sea by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 1988
2.61 | 8 ratings

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From Source to Sea
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars Dreamscapes

After the vocal The Shining and the electronic The Universal Play, Gandalf took a step back towards home with From Source To Sea. It is by no means a full return to the sound that he developed on his first four albums, but at least what we get here is something a bit more interesting then the previous album and the electric guitar reasserts itself again (though only occasionally). This is a mostly relaxing and atmospheric album, but it wouldn't be entirely fair to call it New-Age. Mike Oldfield is once again a reasonable comparison, but also Vangelis' China in that it has a somewhat "oriental" feel at times. From Source To Sea is a lot more symphonic and sweeping than previous Gandalf albums, but it never ventures anywhere near Symphonic Prog. Ultimately it is too subdued and uneventful to be anything to write home about, even though it works well enough as background music.

The title track was previously familiar to me from the excellent live album Gallery Of Dreams Live (part 1) (featuring Steve Hackett), though the live version is rather different from this studio version, and (like virtually all the tracks on that live album and its companion second part) the live version is vastly superiour.

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 The Universal Play by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 1987
2.81 | 13 ratings

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The Universal Play
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

1 stars A giant leap for Gandalf - an insignificant step for mankind

With The Universal Play, Gandalf left (Middle-)Earth and ventured into deep space. This is an almost completely electronic affair in a style not dissimilar to those of Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre. The sound is dominated by electronic sounds throughout, and though there is lots of grand piano, guitars can barely be heard at all. As such, this was a radical departure from Gandalf's earlier efforts. Together with Anthony Phillips, Gandalf is a rare example of an artist who can create both (nearly completely) acoustic works and (nearly completely) electronic works.

For me, the main problem here though is not the radical change of style, or indeed primarily the particular style chosen - even though I have to admit that electronic music is far from my favourite type of music. The problem lies elsewhere: it is the almost complete lack of melody. (I have a similar problem with much of Jarre's and Vangelis's works, though I do like some of it).

So, even though I can hear this music (in the background) without taking offence, I fail to find any listening value in it. It is not unpleasant on the ear, indeed it is sonically of high quality, but it is just unexciting and dull. This album will most probably appeal to fans of the likes of Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, and (Larry Fast's) Synergy, but it fails to leave any lasting impressions on me.

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 More Than Just a Seagull  by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 1983
1.62 | 9 ratings

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More Than Just a Seagull
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

1 stars Just the seagull, please!

More Than Just A Seagull is a soundtrack recording (I don't know what it is a soundtrack for) that was released the same year as the strong Magic Theatre album. The first track is called Self-Realization and runs for over 19 minutes even though it is based on only a single, simple acoustic riff that is repeated ad nauseam over (yes, you've guessed it) sounds of the sea, including seagulls. It reminds me a bit of Mike Oldfield's Hergest Ridge which is similarly uneventful (to my ears at least). I was actually familiar with a version of Self-Realization from the live album Gallery Of Dreams Live featuring Steve Hackett (part 2). That live version is only half as long and at least twice as interesting. Hence, I much prefer the live version.

The other tracks here are similarly one-dimensional and all are performed by Gandalf alone on a multitude of (mostly acoustic) instruments. Overall, this album sounds unfinished and sketchy in comparison with his regular album output from the time.

This album can be safely passed by unless you are a Gandalf completist

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 The Shining  by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 1985
2.04 | 4 ratings

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The Shining
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars It's a new life

The Shining was Gandalf's first vocal album and as such it is quite different from most of his other albums. The female lead vocals are sung by Pippa Armstrong who adopted the name of Galadriel (also from Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings) for the proceedings. The core duo are backed by a little band featuring drums, bass, flute and sax, while Gandalf himself play keyboards and guitars.

The style of the music found here might perhaps be compared to that of Renaissance (from circa A Song For All Seasons to The Other Woman) or maybe Sally Oldfield. This is Rock music of the softer variety with a light folky feel. The result is pleasant enough, but not particularly memorable or exciting. It is at best only mildly progressive. If you want a more Prog album with vocals from Gandalf, you would do much better to check out his later collaboration with Tracy Hitchings: To Our Children's Children. The latter is a much better and much more interesting album.

Even though not without merit, The Shining will probably not impress the general Prog fan. It is recommended only for fans of lightly folky, mildly progressive, soft Rock.

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 Tale From A Long Forgotten Kingdom by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 1984
2.67 | 13 ratings

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Tale From A Long Forgotten Kingdom
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars The sacred esoteric formula

The first thing that struck me about Gandalf's Tale From A Long Forgotten Kingdom is how much the sleeve picture of this album reminds of those for Pendragon's albums (from 1991's The World to 2001's Not Of This World). The music on this album is however not very close to that of Pendragon except maybe in some minor incidental aspects (if you want something more towards Neo-Prog you would do better to look into Gandalf's collaboration with Tracy Hitchings on the album To Our Children's Children).

For this album, multi-instrumentalist Gandalf was on his own again (except for some fleeting wordless vocals by Pippa Armstrong). Comparing with his previous albums I would say that this one is perhaps closest to the debut Journey To An Imaginary Land, but the present album is noteworthy in bringing in many elements of what might be called World-Music and New-Age respectively. But thankfully, he still has one foot in Rock music.

This bright and colourful music is mostly soft and dreamy and Gandalf concentrates here on atmospheres and moods more so than on creating melodies, yet he still manages to make varied and pleasant instrumental music. I was previously familiar with The River Of Realization from the very good live recording Gallery Of Dreams Live (part 1) and it must be pointed out that the live version is much better than this studio version. The River Of Realization (part 2) is nonetheless the best track on Tale From A Long Forgotten Kingdom. Generally, the better tracks of this album come at the end with On The Peacock's Wings and the closer Back Home. The least good track is the longest The Nawan Path which I think is just too long for its own good. The Sacred Esoteric Formula is also a bit too esoteric for me.

Tale From A Long Forgotten Kingdom is by no means Gandalf's best album, but it is the last of the albums that make up his best and most interesting early period, and it is a fitting inclusion in a collection that holds his first four albums.

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 To Another Horizon by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.44 | 19 ratings

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To Another Horizon
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Natural forces getting out of control

To Another Horizon may be one of Gandalf's more adventurous efforts, but it is not his best in my opinion. Compared to the previous Visions, To Another Horizon is decidedly more electronic and focuses more on atmospheric soundscapes and hypnotic rhythms than on melody. As such, this album is less memorable and, like on the debut Journey To An Imaginary Land, there are some "grey areas" where nothing much happens. Natural Forces Getting Out Of Control is, for example, a bit too long and repetitive for my taste. I'm not going to comment on each individual track, but Cosmic Balance is noteworthy is reminding strongly of the style of Vangelis.

Gandalf was experimenting a bit with this album and it seems that he didn't quite know in which direction he wanted to go at this time. The following Magic Theatre would be a more mature album combining the adventurous spirit of this album with the melodic sensibilities of Visions. But even though To Another Horizon is a lesser album than the two that surround it, it is still enjoyable in its own right and a good addition to a collection that already holds those other albums.

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 Magic Theatre by GANDALF album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.80 | 12 ratings

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Magic Theatre
Gandalf Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Magic

Magic Theatre is, together with Visions, Gandalf's finest moment. The eclectic and adventurous nature of the previous To Another Horizon is refined on this album and combined with the melodic sensibilities of Visions to create an excellent instrumental and progressive album. Magic Theatre is also rare in Gandalf's vast discography in being more of a band effort than a one man show. In addition to Gandalf himself on a wide variety of instruments including electric and acoustic guitars, a multitude of keyboards and percussions, there is also a full time drummer in Egdon Groger and bass player in Heinz Hummer which gives this album a fuller sound than other Gandalf albums. Further, Peter Aschenbrenner plays grand piano, organ and saxophone, and Robert Julian Horky plays flutes.

The styles vary from folky to jazzy to classical to electronic while never going too far in either direction and thus keeping it all a coherent whole. This album often reminds me of my favourite Mike Oldfield album Q.E.2., but though Gandalf might perhaps accurately be called "the Austrian Mike Oldfield" he has his own approach to things.

Overall, I find Magic Theatre highly enjoyable. It is recommended to all fans of instrumental, progressive Rock.

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