This CD catches guitarist Ralph Towner at a 1979 solo concert, but as the title of the closing John Abercrombie tune suggests, there's a timeless quality to Towner's music, from crystalline runs to singing harmonics. It's ... more »not just the unadorned sounds of his acoustic 12-string and classical guitars but what he does with them. Towner's astonishing 12-string technique reaches back through folk sources to suggest a baroque harpsichord, while his modal improvisations return the Miles Davis influence (e.g., "Nardis") to its original flamenco and near-Eastern sources. While the appeal of combining folk, classical, world, and jazz elements can easily lead to pastiche, this concert emphasizes shared features. What could easily be the display of empty technique in lesser hands becomes whole music in Towner's hands--a complex, rhythmically vital, personal idiom. --Stuart Broomer« less
This CD catches guitarist Ralph Towner at a 1979 solo concert, but as the title of the closing John Abercrombie tune suggests, there's a timeless quality to Towner's music, from crystalline runs to singing harmonics. It's not just the unadorned sounds of his acoustic 12-string and classical guitars but what he does with them. Towner's astonishing 12-string technique reaches back through folk sources to suggest a baroque harpsichord, while his modal improvisations return the Miles Davis influence (e.g., "Nardis") to its original flamenco and near-Eastern sources. While the appeal of combining folk, classical, world, and jazz elements can easily lead to pastiche, this concert emphasizes shared features. What could easily be the display of empty technique in lesser hands becomes whole music in Towner's hands--a complex, rhythmically vital, personal idiom. --Stuart Broomer
Jeffrey T. Newell | New Orleans, LA United States | 12/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The compositions are brilliant. The interpretations are what you expect or hope from Ralph Towner; they are huge. It's like an orchestra in an immense valley (sorry not a professional poet, but trying my best here...). Not only a musical masterpiece, but the recorded sound is the best you will ever get for the guitar. You get the richness, the airy-ness, the sparkle. It's an album that is very deep, and one should be prepared to LISTEN and let the compositions develop. To me, it is a masterpiece."
D. J. Sapen | 04/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I concur with the superlatives offered by others here.
I can simply say that this album has been on my desert island list for all of the 20+ years I've owned it. It is an achingly beautiful and technically amazing guitar showcase. It is extraordinary too in its balance of compositional depth and nuanced interpretation.
If you have not heard much Ralph Towner, especially his solo works, then it will be a novelty to you as well, and will reward your curiosity - it really does not resemble the work of anyone else I can think of. If you like Towner, this is a must-have.
Oh yeah, the sound is amazing, too."
Great sounding 256kbps MP3 even on home 2.1 system
Richard E. Bayer | Portland, OR USA | 12/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The music part of Amazon.com reviews this excellent music. My comments on AmazonMP3.com are about the 256 kbps MP3 download service for this album.
My personal background includes amateur musician plus I recently ripped my 3000 CDs into *.flac files (lossless)so I have read the text and done the deeds. I use Sonos.com to play back my collection. I am skeptical of the lossy MP3 file format. Some might be OK for a boombox or portable but sound like AM radio when played over a home stereo. My test setup is an Onkyo amp with ADS speakers and MK subwoofer (2.1) with a Sonos.com ZP80 as the "mp3 player".
The download was easy. It goes to the My Music folder on my Windows XP PC. You can then play it on your computer (I use Foobar2000 - some use Windows Media Player) or you can upload the share to Sonos or copy it to another location such as a mobile player. I never have owned music with copy protection so cannot comment on DRM except to say Amazon has none. I would never buy it if I could not copy and paste the file to whatever player I want to use.
The MP3 tagging (I use software called Godfather) reveals the Amazon CD ID number and a copyright ECM 1980 for this album plus the usual track, track title, artist, album title, year recorded (1979), year released (1980), publisher (ECM), and that's it. There is no consumer identifying information I could find even though some blogs spoke of ITunes putting your name and email inside the Metadata. In summary it seems safe to download from Amazon, it's all ripped for you, and there is even the album art tag of the cover. If something else is encoded in the *.mp3 tags, I can't find it with the usual tagging software.
Now for the sound...In a word - Impressive. I do not own an MP3 player hardware device and generally despise compressing music but there are some compromises. The 256 kbps seems to be one I can live with so far and I thank Amazon for this beta release system. I cannot find any bugs and think this is ready for prime time.
My hope is someday there will be lossless media downloads in *.flac or something better. Once you have lossless on you hard drive, you can use software to create any flavor MP3 you like (very compressed for mobile listening or keep it lossless for home stereo or something in between like 256 kbps).
To me this ECM recording of 256 kbps sounds as good as the usual ECM LP without the pops. But, ECM made unusually good recording so I don't know if this applies to all labels. There will be some golden-eared listeners who will hear differences or maybe you can put on some expensive headphones and hear them but on an above-average home stereo, it sounds fine. The overtones from the acoustic guitar all seemed there, which are often the first to go when compressing lossy media.
Before I forget, let me get on a soapbox about potential environmental benefit and consumer ease. I never wanted to own the paper, plastic, & aluminum necessary to get recorded music. And, it's way easy to download over Amazon as opposed to firing up the gas-eater and driving to the mall. And you don't have to wait for CDs in the mail either - some of which will skip because of bad CD authoring and have to be returned. And, you will just want to rip them anyway before your car CD player scratches them silly. So why not buy the "pre-ripped" files and download them?
If this beta launch of high-quality MP3 files is successful, perhaps a lossless option will follow. Then maybe if we are free of the expense of putting music on CDs, more music will become available for purchase - even independent label music that is currently out of print."
Towner's Best Solo Performance
J. Rich | 05/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Solo Concert" was recorded October 1979 and released in 1980 on ECM and is a fine example of solo guitar. Ralph Towner may be best known for his involvement in the group Oregon, but while this may be true, he has done some very excellent albums under his own name. He has worked with several fantastic musicians on his solo albums up to this point in 1979: Kenny Wheeler, Eddie Gomez, Jan Garbarek, Eberhard Weber, Jack DeJohnette, John Abercrombie, David Darling, to name a few. If you want to hear Ralph Towner in a great group setting then check "Solstice," "Solstice: Sound and Shadows," and "Old Friends, New Friends." All these albums demonstrate great group playing. But all of Ralph's albums are highly recommended.
"Solo Concert" is one of those rare performances that captures the excitement of Ralph Towner. The song selections are all top-notch ranging from his own compositions like "Spirit Lake" and "Chelsea Courtyard" to John Abercrombie ("Ralph's Piano Waltz, "Timeless") to Miles Davis' "Nardis." All selections are performed with passion and enthusiasm. They are also all very interesting. Solo performances sometimes leave me cold and make me feel like what I just heard was a waste of perfectly good cd space, but "Solo Concert" is an exception. Towner's 12-string and classical guitar playing are very interesting and there are good uses of dynamics which is something I feel is important in music. His attention to tonal variety is also worth mentioning as he merely acts like a painter with his guitar. I wish I would have checked this recording out sooner than I did. I've owned his album "Solstice" for years, but haven't checked out anything else by Towner until recently. I now own 14 Towner albums.
For anyone interested in solo 12-string guitar and classical guitar, excellent musicianship, and great compositions, then look no further as "Solo Concert" will provide you with a great listening experience and hopefully repeated listenings for you in the future.
If you like Ralph Towner, then buy this album now!"