Turtles and Tricycles and Tortion

William Ackerman’s dreams must be difficult to follow, if they have anything to do with his song titles.

I recently found a copy of Ackerman’s first album, “William Ackerman's 'In Search of the Turtle's Navel'In Search of the Turtle’s Navel” and have enjoyed it almost every night since I bought it. A long-time casual fan of the founder of Windham Hill Records, I’ve lately become a bit more active in my appreciation.

Originally released in 1975, the album is composed of ten songs written over the period 1970 to 1974. Peopled with such characters as Windham Mary, Jose Pepsi, and the Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen, and concepts like the second great tortion bar overland of West Townshend, Vermont and a slow motion roast beef restaurant seduction, these guitar solos have more personality than many single-instrument tunes.

While I find the music of Leo Kottke a bit more accessible, Ackerman frequently sounds like Kottke, but with another dimension, another undiscovered room in the mansion of sound. Such is the case with the opening track, and still my favorite, “The Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen.” Written in 1973, the liner notes claim that this ‘proves once and for all the speed and dexterity are not enough.’ Whatever that means, there are speed and dexterity aplenty in this Kottke-esque romp. There are also those other things implied in the liner notes – quiet passion, delicate nuance, and a complex time signature which comes and goes like a turtle popping in and out of its shell.

It’s not stated explicitly whether Will ever finds the turtle’s navel. He did find a most remarkable guitarist, ‘the guitarist from outer space’, Michael Hedges, coming soon to an Know Your Music entry near you.