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Good ... but something's missing

By Shadowfax

EarthBeat! / Warner Bros.: 1992

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This review first appeared in the November 6, 1992 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Shadowfax, the Grammy-winning new age/world beat band that helped put Windham Hill Records on the map in the '80s, is back – sort of. Anyone who ever thought that Shadowfax was no more than reedman/producer Chuck Greenberg's vehicle will have to modify those thoughts, because it is a missing member of the band who's most noticeable on "esperanto," the band's new release.

G.E. Stinson, the low-key guitarist, isn't in the fold for this latest outing, and it is obvious now that he was an integral part of the band's past achievements. Shadowfax's success has come from it's melding of Afro-based rhythms with various non-Western melodies and harmonies. While both are in ample supply on "esperanto," the album fails to capture the bounce and swing that characterized past albums.

The only real difference is Stinson's absence, attesting to both his past influence and the true ensemble nature of Shadowfax, because Stinson's guitar wasn't central to his value – his playing isn't missed nearly so much as whatever philosophic input he had that pushed the band to its previous levels.

Still, Greenberg's haunting lyricon (an electric recorder), combined with fellow original members Stu Nevitt on percussion and Phil Maggini on bass, produces that trademark haunting sound that helped defined Shadowfax. The melding of various ethnic traditions continues, as does the stellar level of performance.

This is a recording that by any other band's measure would be a resounding success. If "esperanto" is no "Folksongs for a Nuclear Village" and there aren't any songs here to remind one of "Word From the Village" (from "The Dreams of Children"), this is nevertheless a very good album.