The Vinyl Records: Scott Cossu, Switchback

Artist: Scott Cossu
Album: Switchback
Label: Windham Hill Records
Year: 1989
Cat.: WH 91081

Someone here in the Ottawa area collected a bunch of Windham Hill records over the years, and at some point started feeding them into the thrift store ecosystem. I decided, based mostly on graphic design, that I really liked the Windham Hill label. I was even really into one of their star artists before I knew that the label existed. That artist was Michael Hedges, who died too young but like so many other too-young-dying artists left a legacy of beautiful art for us to remember him by.

But I’m not writing about Michael Hedges right now. Maybe someday I’ll get around to reviewing his album Watching My Life Go By, upon which was some guitar styling that rocked my high-school guitar-school drop-out mind. No, I’m reviewing a label-mate of Michael Hedges, a piano playing new-age musician named Scott Cossu. I picked up two of his records at the same time from the Goodwill on Montreal Road in Vanier. Switchback came complete with wax droplets hardened on the cover.

This is music for elevators. I would say it’s music for elevators “at its best” except that it probably isn’t. The best music for elevators appears on Brian Eno’s lesser-known volume in his Ambient series, titled “Ambient 5: Music for Elevators.” (If only that album existed – it would be amazing.)

If Switchback was playing while I was on hold for Bell Customer Service, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Let’s look at the songs, shall we? One song has a title that evokes the olden days (“Country Faire”). Another has a decidedly more modern title (“Manhattan Underground”). The former is peaceful, while the latter is frenetic. “A Child’s Eyes (Jenny’s Song)” has a nice melody doubled by piano and cello (played by Eugene Friesen, a definitely skilled and seemingly ubiquitous cellist on the Windham Hill label).

Windham Hill is at its best when its also at its new-agiest. I’m thinking of a track like Mark Isham’s “On the Threshold of Liberty” which I heard on the Windham Hill 1984 Sampler. Or anything by Hedges. Likewise, the best tracks on Cossu’s album are the ones that take a chill pill and keep the dial below 3. “Last Snow” for example. The up-beat “cool jazz” stuff is just not working for me.

But then, when I’m shopping for 99¢ LP’s at the local thrifts, I’m not going to stop and wonder if a particular record on my favorite label is worth purchasing. I’m just gonna pull out the loonie and buy it.

I’m just afraid that I’ve purchased all the one-dollar WH records that the unknown donor has dropped into the bin… and it’s going to be $7 at the Turning Point from here on in. Worth It.