FIRST RELEASED in 1975, the album "Watercourse Way" by Shadowfax represents the storm before the lull. Right from the start, beginning with "The Shape of a Word" and G.E. Stinson's tortured guitar solos, and continuing until the art- rockish climax of the last track, "Song for my Brother," it's obvious that this is not just another musical sedative from the popular West Coast label Windham Hill. Eventually, though, you may find yourself wishing it were.
According to the notes on the jacket, the album was reissued in response to all the fans who wanted "to replace their old ones which were worn from years of use . . . You will find this album to be much more electric than our current releases." Electric? Try blaring.
Granted, Shadowfax's music could certainly stand a little passion and excitement, but these early experments tend to be either dated, derivative or indulgent, and the most pompously orchestrated performance, "Linear Dance," manages to be all three.
Far more enjoyable are the gentle and refined "Petite Aubade," in which acoustic guitar and flute softly embrace, and the title tune, another acoustic but considerably more rhythmic offering.
These selections, which have much more in common with the textured music found on the band's more recent albums, suggest that Shadowfax may well have chosen the right musical path after all.
Another Windham Hill release, and a far more typical one, is "Film Music," a collection of sound tracks Mark Isham wrote for three movies, "Mrs. Soffel," "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk," and "Never Cry Wolf." The last is certainly the most memorable, almost eerie in its evocation of the polar wilds. The other scores, which also find Isham waxing moody on the synthesizer, don't stand up nearly so well on their own.