A. Dutkiewicz | Norwood, South Australia Australia | 11/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know if my title is quite accurate, but Oregon's music is simply gorgeous. You'd be stretched to find anything anywhere that compares with its beauty. Their early albums as a group are all a real treat, as are many of their solo albums (check out Towner and Walcott especially on ECM).Distant Hills was originally recorded in 1973. The instruments played by these master musicians give a clue to its musical content: Paul McCandless - oboe; Glen Moore - violin, flute, electric & acoustic bass, bowed bass; Ralph Towner: piano, trumpet, acoustic six and twelve string guitar; Collin Walcott - clarinet, piano, marimba, percussion, guitar, tamboura, sitar and tabla. Comparisons might be made with McLaughlin's My Goal's Beyond - similar territory and instrumentation anyway."
A soul-lifting experience
Richard Seegar | Miami, Florida | 06/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Two tracks on this album, Aurora and Canyon Song, are among my all-time favorites by anyone. Beautifully paced and building up to emotional waves that wash over you, this is true 'soul' music, a precurser to the best emotional highs the Pat Metheny Group can conjure up. The texures are exquisite, the musicianship suberb and the soloing always moves the piece forward."
Where Third Ear Band could have gone had they not turned to
mianfei | 11/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although often thought of as being from a different genre of music, Oregon's "Distant Hills" might to the unacquainted be best described as the record Third Ear Band might have made after Abelard & Heloise had they not turned to synthesisers in the effort to gain more sales.
"Distant Hills", the second album by Oregon, can best be described, like Third Ear Band, as improvised acoustic folk music. The main focus of all the pieces is Ralph Towner's twelve-string acoustic guitar and Colin Walcott's percussion, which are accompanied by Paul McCandless on oboe and Glen Moore on bass to provide a quiet, yet far from bland and peaceful, rhythmic counterpart to the melodic lines of Towner and McCandless. Only on the third track, "Mi Chinita" is there anything approaching what most listeners would actually recognise as "jazz" and even there only for part of the piece - after which it turns into something distinctly quiet but intense and abstract.
The opening piece, "Aurora" set a remarkable standard for the rest of "Distant Hills" with its simple groove that is dense owing to the range of instruments used yet at the same time very stark because the production manages to get the full sound out of the percussion in a way rarely seen in any type of music. Listening to "Aurora" now, one regrets that so many poor imitations have been much more successful at this ambient, world music-influenced style. Though quiet, the groove of "Aurora" is one of the most entrancing ever created and its repetitiveness serves to make it more interesting.
"Dark Spirit" is extremely slow to the point of being depressing, yet Towner's twangy guitar line turns into one of the most amazing pieces of work you are likely to hear: so dense as to keep complete interest for the entire length of the track. The title piece combines the approach of the previous two to create a sense of "space" that is much, much greater than the name could suggest. "Canyon Song"'s opening oboe intro and barely audible guitar give way to a wonderfully sharp groove by Walcott that, though soft, has an intensity the most aggressive hard rockers could never match if they were serious. The way in which Walcott, Towner and Moore interplay is totally stunning even if one has to listen with the sharpest ear to notice what they manage.
"Song for a Friend" is a twisted folk piece with a seemingly one-note guitar line moving the listener in a surprising way, whilst closer "Confession" returns to the ambient tone of "Aurora" with Oregon's expected skill and beauty.
Although classed as jazz, Oregon's music, like Third Ear Band, was essentially improvised instrumental folk (and of course their records were originally released on folk label Vanguard). Still, words can hardly describe the unique sound of "Distant Hills": at times dense, and at times simple, these twisted folk pieces achieve a resonance and beauty uniquely their own."
A Sonic Mess
Fritz Gerlich | email@example.com | 07/31/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This review is about the sound quality only, not the music.
I should note that I have the Japanese version, so I cannot say for sure if the American one suffers from the same problems; it is fairly likely though, as most times the Japanese just get a copy of the American/European master when they put out their version. It's cheaper that way. Of course I bought this disk before I realized that Japanese editions are 9/10 the same as domestic ones. So if you're going to spend $40 on an import, you should do a little research to see if it's worth it.
It's true that I hold jazz disks to a higher standard than rock etc., but by any standard the mastering of this disk is terrible. And I am sure it is the mastering guy, because it was recorded in 1973 before they had the incredibly powerful (and usually terribly abused) Digital Audio Workstations, which can perform amazing things on audio. No, the damage done here was a recent thing because the amount of dynamic range compression, clipping, and distortion during the more intense parts of this disk are definitely products of digital power. A good example would be between 01:20 and 02:30 of track 3. Hugely powerful improv, slamming up against 0 dB continually, distorting, and clipping in the process. Absolutely terrible for a Jazz release. If you want to know more about the so called 'loudness war' look it up at wikepedia, or do a google.
Anyway, if sound quality is an important factor for you, I would avoid wasting your money on this travesty.
Edit: HAHA! I just found that I had a 1987 cd version of this record in my collection so I did a quick comparison of the older one with the newer one. The old one is near perfect. There is tonnes of dynamics, no clipping, and no distortion; it sounds fantastic. So if you can grab one of the old disks, do it. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. It really is amazing how much louder the new one is in comparison, and how much crappier it sounds. So five stars for the 1987 version, but I'm going to let my 1 star rating stand for the new version. And just for the record my 1987 from "vanguard records" disk id: VMD-79341 and my Japanese version is from "another side of jazz" disk id: QSCA-1009. So if you buy one through an Amazon reseller you can try to make sure you get the good one."