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ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER

Crossover Prog • Switzerland


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Andreas Vollenweider biography
Born 4 October 1953 (Zurich, Switzerland)

Andreas VOLLENWEIDER, son of an organist, is born in Zurich (Switzerland) in 1953. He started playing various instruments as autodidact until he discovered the harp, an instrument that he innovated by applying pick-ups and other transformations so to make possible the glissando. His first release is dated 1979 and currently the last official studio album has been released in 2009.

Even if he's known mostly for his new-age period in the early 80s his music has touched many genres, even inside the same album.

His music has been labeled as world, newage, progressive and jazz, but he has also shown classical influences.

The world label is likely because of the use of various ethnic instruments but more than a research oriented to esotic folk is mainly a research of sounds.

Starting from Dancing With The Lions his production becomes more progressive, in particular symphonic. In the 90s he becomes a bit more radio friendly. Eolian Minstrel includes a country-rock ballad sung by Carly Simon (Harvest), but the album is partially a concept and it's from this album that Vollenweider starts fitting better into the Crossover classification. Kryptos contains songs by Astor Piazzolla in the same period and in a similar way of Al DI MEOLA's Play Piazzolla. Since Eolian Minstrel he has started a number of collaborations having often famous jazzists as guests players.

Unfortunately a number of works have been performed only live for special events and haven't seen a proper release.

Out of the music world, VOLLENWEIDER is a declared pacifist inspired to Gandhi, has released a single for Greenpeace (Pace Verde is the Italian translation of green peace), has won Grammy awards, has received the World music award for a benefit show for the Chernobyl's children and has performed in unusual places like a volcanic cave, on the top of a mountain in the alps and in the Red Square in Moscow.

His website has a German and an English version http://www.vollenweider.net. In the home page you can read this sentence:

We must BE the change we whish to SEE! (Mahatma Gandhi)

::octopus-4::

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ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER discography


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

3.10 | 11 ratings
Eine Art Suite In XIII Teilen
1979
2.97 | 28 ratings
Behind The Gardens - Behind The Wall - Under The Tree
1981
3.18 | 30 ratings
Caverna Magica
1982
3.71 | 30 ratings
White Winds (Seeker's Journey)
1984
3.77 | 30 ratings
Down To The Moon
1986
3.55 | 18 ratings
Dancing With The Lion
1988
3.33 | 6 ratings
Andreas Vollenweider & Hans Vollenweider: Traumgarten
1990
3.53 | 13 ratings
Book Of Roses
1991
3.07 | 10 ratings
Eolian Minstrel
1993
3.83 | 11 ratings
Kryptos
1997
3.11 | 9 ratings
Cosmopoly
1999
2.08 | 5 ratings
Vox
2004
3.33 | 3 ratings
Midnight Clear
2006
3.25 | 4 ratings
Air
2009

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

4.00 | 5 ratings
Andreas Vollenweider & Friends - live 1982-94
1994

ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Magical Journeys of Andreas Vollenweider
2006

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

3.55 | 6 ratings
The Trilogy
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Essential
2001
3.50 | 2 ratings
The Storyteller
2005

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
Pace Verde
1983

ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Vox by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 2004
2.08 | 5 ratings

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Vox
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars While vocals had been deployed as instruments in vintage ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER productions, and he did engage accomplished singers to impart thematic messages on "Eolian Minstrel" and in multiple languages on "Cosmopoly", "Vox" represents the harp players first headlong venture into lead vocals. He actually possesses a pleasant voice suited to his Renaissance gentleman persona and equally dolce musical style. Luckily he has written lyrics that harmoniously abut the music, because, even with all these boxes being ticked, this is one of his less exciting releases.

One could approach this from the opposite camp and assess that, given cheesy lyrics, relatively conventional or at least habitual arrangements, and diffident vocal style, subtracting out the ethnic fusion that somewhat elevated its immediate predecessors, it's a wonder that "Vox" isn't a total botch job, which it assuredly is not.

Vollenweider's earnest and understated manner works wonderfully on "these Hearts of Gold", "Home of Love", "Pilgrim" and "Ripples in the edge of time", as he intuits brilliantly what his fans might want from his own lips as opposed to second hand deliveries via ELIZA GILKYSON or CARLY SIMON.

Unfortunately, the rest just doesn't quite rise to the level of succinctness required in this genre, and much is stuck in cliches of the 1980s to which Vollenweider didn't even stoop in the heart of that decade. I'm thinking "Wake up and Dance", "Sons of Sisyphus" and "What if it wasn't a dream" in particular.

Though Vollenweider is to be commended for finally giving voice to these interests for the first time, he unfortunately didn't stick with it for the duration so "Vox" is the quintessential fan only release, though probably not for all fans.

 Cosmopoly by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.11 | 9 ratings

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Cosmopoly
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars In what can be regarded as the second of a two-part world music extravaganza, ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER again assembled a who's who of far flung musical overachievers as co-collaborators. While "Kryptos" accented the classical derivations and philosophies, "Cosmopoly" is more jazz oriented, particularly of the Latin and Afro-Cuban varieties. Even the familiar and fulfilling "Stella", following his tradition of notable second tracks, exudes these playful and crisp vibes.

Bobby McFerrin's versatile vocal exercises warm the catchy "Elle Chelle". The Basque accordion of Kepa Junkera imparts an open air nostalgic scent to "Petit Smile". "Peachtree Valley" is perhaps his best fusion with Oriental motifs courtesy of Pingxing Xu's Chinese hammered dulcimer and Vollenweider's own erhu. Also of note are the Celtic inspired numbers "Under One Moon", which could pass for a mid period ALAN STIVELL track, and "At the Forest Fountain", benefiting from spirited piping by Spain's CARLOS NUNEZ. "Your Silver Key" is a brief but resounding contribution from CARLY SIMON, the best I have heard between these two artists, like a wayward JUDY COLLINS. VOLLENWEIDER plays the ancient wind instrument ocarina on "Long Road to You", backed elegantly by a string quartet.

The latter 4 tracks plunge with abandon into self possessed improvisation with more mixed results, with the accomplished guests occasionally drowning the arrangements, as they did on the earlier "Hush, My Heart, Be Still" and "Ancient Pulse" (where one might well be ok with ABDULLA IBRAHAM's kidnapping job) but "Cor do Amor" is a pitch perfect duo with MILTON NASCIMENTO.

While admittedly the catchment area of this release is a bit sprawling, "Cosmopoly" affirms that VOLLENWEIDER, while perhaps not in same division as his invitees, is worldly enough to pull off a project that both compliments and complements all involved. 3.5 stars

 Kryptos by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.83 | 11 ratings

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Kryptos
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars After the questionable vocal tangent of "Eolian Minstrel", ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER leaned heavily on his aces for this 1997 release, where voice when present is more for complementing his delicate palate. But this is far from a restatement of his earlier successes, as any examination of the shoulder length credits would reveal.

"Kryptos" veers resolutely into the orchestral man-cave of the Vollenweider estate. Sure, the first true composition is the familiar sounding and downright catchy "Morgana Palace", but this time around the victors are the Celtic infused symphonic gems like the breathtaking "under the Tree of Hope", the guided travelogue "Wanja the Wanderer", the whimsical and rambunctious "Forest Folk", the most overtly progressive "Trigon" (with show stealer Michael Brecker on sax), and the OLDFIELD inspired "May Green be the Grass".

All the while the listener is faced with an essential quandary at the core of this man's music. Is he just a "nervous composer" as some have suggested, flitting petulantly between attention starved themes, or is he not a composer at all in the "classical" sense, but just a "player" for those with no formal musical knowledge or appreciation? The true answer is an amorphous third option hidden in stark view on "Kryptos", in which his perfectionism achieves a brightness that can only make one squint with awe and delight.

 Eolian Minstrel by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.07 | 10 ratings

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Eolian Minstrel
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars The relevance of the New Age genre had largely fizzled by 1993. Andreas Vollenweider peaked commercially with his Grammy winning "Down to the Moon", experienced the typical follow through on "Dancing with the Lion" - higher chart position, fewer weeks on the chart - while his run on the mainstream charts ended with a thud on the critically acclaimed "Book of Roses", although he had sufficient resources to continue elaborate projects for his worldwide fan base. He is basically a niche artist, most of whom never even attain his level of sales, and only a select few of whom can elongate a single sustained drone over several decades and assuage anesthetized eardrums the world over, such as ENYA.

To be fair to Vollenweider, at least he tried to change. "Eolian Minstrel" was his first song oriented album, enlisting durable American folk pop singer Eliza Gilkyson on most tracks, with predictably middling results. One might have expected a more Celtic accent, but I hear almost as many jazz and pop shadings, which further dilutes the potential impact. Still, "Reason Enough" thrusts forward like the best OYSTERBAND intro and doesn't let up, while the more strictly rock oriented "Harvest" veers from the track most likely to be skipped to the one most likely to be skipped to. "Desert of Rain" generates a swirling wiccan atmosphere like the best of STEVIE NICKS, and the sole spot by CARLY SIMON, "Private Fires, may not be a barn burner but it's intimate enough. "Leaves of the Great Tree" adds a welcome country-ish impurity to the catholic diorama.

The few instrumentals fail to build momentum or bridge the vocal tracks, while certainly offering agreeable passages in a more Celtic or Native American vein. The exception is the elegant "Leaves of the Great Tree" with the violin and sax coaxing each other into climactic levitation and the harp making sure they don't stay airborne. It's a rare emotional crest for music that is often rightly accused of being too sedate for its own good.

While Vollenweider and friends might not be recommended for the graduate level prog fan, "Eolian Minstrel" doesn't let down the listener who craves integrity with a light touch.

 Book Of Roses by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.53 | 13 ratings

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Book Of Roses
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars As on "Dancing with the Lion", "Book of Roses" sees ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER enlist a bevvy of talented guests to compliment his own ever growing instrumental palette. His harp shares billing with or cedes to keyboards, winds, strings, voices and even blinding Spanish guitar. The output is an eclectic alchemy of World and Jazz, highlighted by the Celtic Christmassy "The Grand Ball Of The Duljas"; the Andean inflected "Morning At Boma Park"; the acoustically proggy "In the Woods of Kroandal" and "Jugglers in Obsidian"; the surprisingly well developed and fiery "Hirzel"; the vivacious new age of "Letters to a Young Rose"; and the resoundingly symphonic bonus cut "Overtuerli".

Unfortunately, for every such triumph we can point to a failed idea like yet another misplaced LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO guest spot, a tepid bore like the title cut, or the excruciating death by vocal of "The Birds of Tilmun" and "Manto's Arrow". At best these missteps are failed transitional pieces, but at worst they sabotage momentum and derail what could have been his masterpiece. Arguably VOLLENWEIDER's most progressive release, "Book of Roses" might be the first one you open on that basis alone, but it's not quite a page turner.

 Dancing With The Lion by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.55 | 18 ratings

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Dancing With The Lion
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars As the difficult follow up to Grammy award winning "Down to the Moon", "Dancing with the Lion" enlisted a veritable army of guest musicians for the first time, many on wind instruments. It didn't exactly turn Vollenweider into a jazz artist, though the effects are felt in some of the arrangements and in the downbeat moods, especially on the rather lackluster pieces that safely hide out in the midsection of the beast. Luckily, a few of his more engaging compositions are also found here, particular the opener "Unto the Burning Circle", the instantly recognizable title cut and the celebratory "Still Life", which succeeds at least in part because of the way it breaches the kitsch boundary while smoothly shifting pace. The magnificently brooding closer "Ascent from the Circle" represents a refinement of the more pan cultural moments on "Down to the Moon".

"Dancing with the Lion" courted risk by diluting the signature Vollenweider sound that only just been fully realized a couple of years earlier. It is to the credit of the man's honed instincts that, in the mane, the step was worth taking.

 Down To The Moon by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.77 | 30 ratings

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Down To The Moon
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars By the mid 1980s New Age music was accorded its own section in record stores, and artists who were never really part of that "movement", like TANGERINE DREAM and MIKE OLDFIELD were filed uncomfortably in those shelves, much to the cringing chagrin of those who knew better. On the other hand, ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER began his career just prior to these marketing developments that seemed customized for him. He quickly embodied the best aspects of the new age personally and musically. Even when the proverbial 15 minutes were over for the bulk of related artists, he was able to retain his base and continue recording well into the next century. "Down to the Moon" was the pivotal release, garnering a Grammy in the new age category. Listening to it now, it's easy to see why.

The unique harp that he created and plays remains in the foreground throughout, and the production is absolutely crystalline. The acoustic guitars, played by Max Laesser, are far more predominant than before, and eclectic influences from the Americas, and near and far East are more discernible. "Moon Dance" marks further maturation that began with "White Winds" - a central jaunty theme with distinct offshoots and a modicum of voice as is his wont. I wouldn't doubt that Japanese band ASTURIAS listened closely to this album before embarking on their career shortly thereafter, adopting the lucidity and elegance of such numbers as "Silver Wheel" and "Three Silver Ladies Dance". A few tracks are much more reflective, such as "Water Moon" and "Quiet Observer".

It's probably been decades since I listened to Vollenweider in this detail, and I'm surprised how much better "Down to the Moon" sounds than it did 30 years ago. If you want one representative from his comprehensive discography, nay, from the whole new age genre, you could do far worse than land right here.

 White Winds (Seeker's Journey) by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.71 | 30 ratings

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White Winds (Seeker's Journey)
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars On his first few releases, Swiss composer and electroacoustic pedal harp inventor/multi-instrumentalist was essentially an artist in search of a genre. Not intricate or improvised enough for jazz, not disciplined enough for classical, not ethnic enough for world music, and lacking in rock aspect, he persevered until the nascent "new age" genre found him and anointed him. The relatively short window for this style was long enough for Vollenweider to emerge popular even when the yuppies all got too busy with diapers to seek out recordings that never rose to the level of automatic purchases. Yet Vollenweider himself, while not re-inventing his sound by any measure on "White Winds", the final installment of his Trilogy, must be credited for helping his own cause by dispensing with much of the aimless clutter that plagued his prior efforts.

While the man himself exuded gravitas even at a younger age, this is the first release where he manages to infuse his music with that earnest sense and deliberateness which might resonate more with prog fans. He didn't turn into MIKE OLDFIELD or JEAN LUC PONTY to be sure, but "Hall of the Stairs" and "The Glass Hall" play much more like epics while warmly showcasing his harp throughout, such that even the occasional chanting complements rather than detracts. These pieces are propelled forward by the naturally rhythmic nature of the harp, unencumbered by excess baggage. When he does include guests, such as Joerg-Peter Siebert on winds, the effect is more memorable still. Even his more docile arrangements like on "Phases of the Three Moons" and "Flight Feet and Root Hands" retain a simple charm and elegance.

I'm not saying that fans of complex progressive rock should visit every Unitarian Church sale looking for "White Winds", but at least here the gentle breeze of new age seems to buffet the good ship prog while assuredly not rocking the boat.

 Caverna Magica by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.18 | 30 ratings

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Caverna Magica
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars "Caverna Magica" begins under the tree where ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER's previous album ended, and indeed this is the second entry from his early 1980s trilogy. As before, the Swiss electro-acoustic pedal harp inventor and multi instrumentalist offers up a sweet if not always captivating blend of jazz, classical, and world music, which can justifiably be called progressive or "new age" on that basis alone. It's another truncated affair that still somehow seems longer than it needs to be. Admittedly, that which appeared on side 1 of the original vinyl is the more adventurous and worthwhile, particularly the free flow of "Lunar Pond" through "Sena Stanjena", which play more like a developing suite, and even include laid back west coast electric guitar along with the shuffling harp. Unfortunately the second half delves into arrangements that, while not overdone at the time, became so enshrined in free festivals of the mid 1980s to mid 1990s that I still can't hear them as originally intended. I'm referring to chanted vocalizations and steel drums in particular, which help sink "Belladonna" and "Angoh", neither of which are very alluring to begin with, and do some damage to the otherwise promising "Green Peace".

Fragments of a successful synthesis notwithstanding, "Caverna Magica" touches down uncomfortably between ambient and animated, somehow failing on both counts, and is hence not worthy of your spelunking time.

 Behind The Gardens - Behind The Wall - Under The Tree by VOLLENWEIDER, ANDREAS album cover Studio Album, 1981
2.97 | 28 ratings

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Behind The Gardens - Behind The Wall - Under The Tree
Andreas Vollenweider Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars Known through most of the 1980s as the consummate (!) new age performer with the over-earnestness that exponents espouse, ANDREAS VOLLENWEIDER is not a name that has commonly been tossed about on over-earnest prog rock fora. Yet whatever algorithms are employed by Spotify are more than eager to juxtapose this Swiss harp inventor and virtuoso with the likes of YES, so at the very least some whirring supercomputer somewhere has assessed that Vollenweider is A and Yes is B, if you see what I mean.

Over the decades I have listened to a good deal from this Swiss professional, often in random sequences, sometimes disunited by decades. Sure, he was a refuge during Serious Music's dark ages, but do we need him now? I can state categorically that I have yet to discern any edge whatsoever in his works; they are splendid, even luxuriant, but rarely moving. This debut of sorts (he did produce a "Suite" earlier but that was released later) establishes the blueprint for at least a decade's worth of successors in a mere half hour, with its blend of folk, classical, nascent "world music" and even jazz fusion. The harp may not sound a whole lot like its cousins, but, consistently leaned on, it becomes just as monotonous. At the same time, I acknowledge that new age artists that followed him in the 1980s were certainly influenced by and given to emulating the ambiance he cultivated.

If I had to pick a favourite it would be "Pyramid" which seems a prototype for his more hypnotic numbers on the next few releases. But I can't help feeling it would all sound better on Spanish guitar, no? The vocal segment is brief but spirited. "Micro Macro" is also noteworthy for its JEAN LUC PONTY on second generation anti depressants vibe. But overall, I'd say the most likely outcome of a search "Behind the gardens-Behind the Wall-Under the Tree" is a few happily sleeping souls.

Thanks to evolver for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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