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Oregon — 1974
(Moosicus M1218-2, 1974/2021, 2CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2021-09-21

1974 Cover art

In the 60s, Glen Moore and Ralph Towner were friends at the University of Oregon at Eugene. By the end of the decade both were working musicians in New York, where they joined saxophonist Paul Winter’s group The Winter Consort. It was while they were playing with Winter that they met Colin Walcott and Paul McCandless, and the four began working together, in addition to working in Winter’s group, calling their new collaboration Oregon. The new group recorded an album in 1970, but the label went bust before it could be released. (It was finally released in 1980.) In 1972 they released Music of Another Present Era, and in 1973, Distant Hills, both on the Vanguard label. In addition, Towner and Moore recorded Trios and Solos for ECM (which featured Walcott and McCandless also). By this time Oregon was becoming well known as an acoustic improvising collective, blending Indian and Western classical music with jazz, ethnic folk, and avant-garde elements, like no other band before them, with Towner on guitars, Moore on bass, McCandless on oboe and English horn, and Walcott on sitar, tabla, and piano, with percussion shared by all. It’s at this time, in March ‘74 — arguably the group’s creative peak — that they found themselves in Germany, on Radio Bremen, which this two disc set documents. The set features three cuts from Distant Hills: “Dark Spirit,” “Canyon Song,” and the title track, as well as “The Silence of a Candle” from their 1972 album, and “Brujo” from Trios and Solos. “Ogden Road” would appear on Towner’s solo album Diary later in 1974, and “Ghost Beads” would appear on their next studio recording Winter Light. Perhaps the most noteworthy things about this set is that all of these cuts are extended versions, most breaking the ten minute mark, with a few as long as a full album side, and in this live setting the four players are truly on fire, far exceeding the studio counterparts of the included tracks. I have to say that, as powerful as Oregon’s studio recordings from this period are, hearing them live on 1974 is nothing short of a stunning revelation.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases, 1974 recordings

Related artist(s): Ralph Towner, Oregon

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