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Michael Hedges


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Acoustic thrash (that's what he called it). New Age mostly instrumental acoustic rock/folk guitar

Status:

Killed in a one-car crash in December 1997, and the guitar world mourns his loss daily. Most recent release, Beyond Boundaries: Guitar Solos (2001)

See also:

The Michael Hedges website

Comparisons:

A true original in the guitar world. More often than not, others are compared to the "Hedges stye" playing which is highly percussive. A one-man orchestra. Guitarists will recognize Leo Kottke, Martin Carthy, and John Martyn in the playing, but with a hint of Stravinsky and contemporary experimental composers.

Covers/own material:

Michael performed a mix of original material and covers in live performances, while recording primarily original material.

General comments:

Once upon a time, there was a guitarist who could coax unbelievable sounds from an acoustic guitar. His fingers would run across the instrument from top to bottom, side to side, and amazing sounds would emanate from the shell of wood. He revived the orchestral harp guitar (a six-string guitar with 6-8 harp strings for added bass) from obscurity and mesmerized people with his depth of composition. He pretty much put Windham Hill Records on the map in the 1980s, with three Grammy nominations and a Grammy win with Oracle. But mostly, he was musician who truly loved what he was doing, and in the process, made you love it as well. (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

alas. i was lucky to see Michael in a special performance during my brief stint at the Berklee School of Music, and it was a magical experience. he was technically proficient at a level that trancended the genres of "new acoustic" or "new age" or "windham hill". even more, he refused to acknowledge the boundaries or those genres, and experimented and grew his music in ways that are rare in the business...that makes his music ectofare, at the very least. go find a copy of Aerial Boundaries or Breakfast In The Field or his la(te)st Oracle (which includes songs from The Beatles, Zappa, and the theme from "Hatari"!), and think a kind thought for him... (12/97, bossert@suddensound.com)

i've never been a "fan", but have been appreciative of his profound affect on instrumental music—as said above, he didn't acknowledge the boundries that others placed on windham hill or new age.
     definitely a loss. (12/97, birdies@ix.netcom.com)

This is truly sad news. I got to see Michael perform a couple of times, and met him after his last show in Indy. He was a wonderful guy with a great sense of humor and a love for music that overflowed onto the stage and out into the audience. I don't think I've ever seen/heard anyone play the guitar in as original a manner as he did.... He will be missed, deeply, by those of us who appreciated innovation and energy in musical performance. (12/97, gregdunn@indy.net)

Comments about live performance:

It is with great sorrow, that no one will again see Michael play live. I had the great honor of witnessing his live performances a number of times, as he would play in and around Stanford University quite often in the late 1980s and literally bring people to a standstill with these spur-of-the-moment concerts. His total devotion to his music and his instruments would mesmerize you and the sounds which poured out would envelope you. (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

Michael Hedges is out on tour again. Definitely a don't-miss (although feel free to take a bathroom break during his rendition of "Jabberwocky"; he makes an effort to be silly, and it just doesn't work). But be sure to come back in time to see more of his jaw-dropping guitartistry. (c. 1997, dixon@physics.Berkeley.EDU)

Recommended first album:

The Best of Michael Hedges and Live on the Double Planet

Recordings:


Breakfast in the Field

Release info:

1981—Windham Hill—WD-1017

Availability:

U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Michael Hedges—acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Michael Manring—fretless bass
George Winston—piano

Produced by:

Will Ackerman

Comments:

This album was recorded live onto two tracks with no overdubs. Manring and Winston appear on a few tracks as accompaniment, but it is mostly just Michael, his voice, and his guitar and defined the early "Windham Hill" sound.
     Recommended tracks: "Funky Avocado", "Breakfast in the Field." (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

Aerial Boundaries

Release info:

1984—Windham Hill—WD-1032

Availability:

U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Michael Hedges—acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Michael Manring—fretless bass
Mindy Rosenfeld Hedges—flute

Produced by:

Will Ackerman, Michael Hedges, and Steven Miller

Comments:

Most people will say that this is "the album" of Michael's work which turned the acoustic guitar world upside-down, and they'd be right. Again, the acoustic guitar pieces are recorded onto two tracks without overdubs.
    Recommended tracks: "Rickover's Dream", "Hot Type", "Menage a Trois". (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

Watching My Life Go By

Release info:

1985—Open Air Music—OD-030

Availability:

U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Michael Hedges—vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, flute, synthesizer, harmonica, wine glasses

Guest artists:

Michael Manring—fretless bass
John Hanes—drums
Bobby McFerrin—chants and solo vocals
Hilleary Burgess—wine glasses

Produced by:

Elliot Mazer

Comments:

The first album to really play up Michael's singing ability, and display a lush production with such simple instrumentation. Elliot Mazer is a long time collaborator with Neil Young, for those interested. This album also introduces the world to what many consider the definitive production of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" in which Michael literally beats the <expletive> out of his guitar.
    Recommended tracks: "All Along the Watchtower", "Woman of the World". (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

Live on the Double Planet

Release info:

1987—Windham Hill—WD-1066

Availability:

U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Michael Hedges—vocals, acoustic guitar, harp guitar

Guest artists:

Michael Manring—fretless bass

Produced by:

Michael Hedges

Comments:

The only way to get a glimpse of Michael Hedges live performance, this distillation of wonderful covers and some of his best solo pieces will get you a taste of what the world lost.
    Recommended tracks: The entire album, but especially "Because It's There" the showcase of the harp guitar, and his wonderful covers of "All Along the Watchtower", "A Love Bizarre", and "Come Together". (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

Taproot

Release info:

1990—Windham Hill—WD-1093

Availability:

U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Michael Hedges—acoustic guitar, savage myth guitar, tin whistle, keyboards, bass, TransTrem guitar, harp-guitar, percussion, flute, vocals

Guest artists:

Michael Manring—fretless bass
Mike Moore—clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone
Bryan Lanser—percussion
David Crosby and Graham Nash—background vocals

Produced by:

Michael Hedges

Comments:

The most experimental album in Michael's collection, this concept album is meant to take you on a journey through his autobiography. The only vocal piece is actually an e.e. cummings poem.
    Recommended tracks: "Nomad Land", "Taproot", "i carry your heart". (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

The Road to Return

Release info:

1994—High Street 72902 10329-2

Availability:

Limited availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Michael Hedges—acoustic guitar, high-strung acoustic guitar, low-strung acoustic guitar, TransTrem electric guitar, electric and acoustic bass guitars, harmonica, keyboards, alto flute, drums, vocals

Guest artists:

Pipa Pinon—chants
Janeen Rae Heller—saw

Produced by:

Michael Hedges

Comments:

This one literally knocks most Hedges' fans on the floor since there isn't a single acoustic guitar solo to be found. No matter, it's an amazing album with an ecto-ish vibe thanks to Pipa Pinon.
     Recommended tracks: "Road to Return", "India", "A Midwinter Night's Dream". (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

Blech. Mike should stop trying to be "meaningful" and just ROCK. (dixon@physics.Berkeley.EDU)


Oracle

Release info:

1996—Windham Hill—01934-11196-2

Availability:

U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Michael Hedges—acoustic guitars, bass, harp-guitar, synthesizers, alto flute, harmonica, vocals

Guest artists:

Michael Manring—fretless bass

Produced by:

Michael Hedges

Comments:

This is a return to Michael's acoustic roots mostly because his beautiful handmade guitar, which was stolen in 1982, was returned and inspired this album.
    Recommended tracks: "Dirge", "Jitterboogie", "Tomorrow Never Knows". (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

Torched

Release info:

1999—Windham Hill—01934-11394-2

Availability:

U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Michael Hedges—acoustic guitars, bass, harp-guitar, synthesizers, alto flute, melodeon, percussion, vocals

Guest artists:

Michael Manring—fretless bass

Produced by:

Michael Hedges

Comments:

This album was released by Windham Hill after Michael's untimely death in 1997. It was built from his recordings and notes by his manager Hilleary Burgess. Windham Hill donated all proceeds from its sales to a trust fund setup for his two young sons. This album was Michael's attempt at throwing off the self-imposed limitations he had defined for himself, and is truly on of his finest works. I personally think it took great courage by Windham Hill to allow this slightly rough, album to be released in respect for Michael's vision.
    Recommended tracks: "Torched", "Phoenix Fire", "Shell Shock Venus", "Coda". (tjshadb@voyuz.net)

The Best of Michael Hedges

Release info:

2000—Windham Hill—01934-11223-2

Availability:

U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Comments:

For those now wishing to hunt high and low for copies of some of Michael's previous recordings, this collection, which was compiled by Hilleary and longtime collaborator Michael Manring, is a fine way to experience the Hedges' sound.
    Recommended tracks: I give Hilleary and Michael credit, this is fine collection, with each track highly recommended. (tjshadb@voyuz.net)


Thanks to Troy Shadbolt for work on this entry.

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Katharine Cole

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Michael Hedges

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Kindness

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Land of the Blind

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Megan Slankard


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Entry last updated 2013-01-13 15:48:56.
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