Haze Greenfield's "Sounds of Thought"

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Summary: Danny and I bought a bargain-bin tape years ago. I recently tracked down the long out-of-print CD. Some memory lane, here.

Wednesday, 03 March 2010

(15:26:58 CST)

Haze Greenfield's "Sounds of Thought"

One of the clearest memories I have is an altogether strangely non-important day. Danny and I, sometime around 1992-93, shopping in Brewton, AL's Walmart (at that time, I'm pretty sure it was not "Super", yet). We picked up two audiotapes,this was when about half or more of Walmart's music selection was in cassette format: Queen's A Kind of Magic and Haze Greenfield's Sounds of Thought. Danny had been specifically looking for the former, the latter was a new agish example of those cheap "bargain-bin" non-pop albums you can pick up at any Walmart or Best Buy or what-have-you for half or less a normal album's price. Usually some soft Jazz compilation, Classics to Rock 2, or Clog-stomping Polka Hog Heaven. They often have really nondescript covers and sometimes have a little hole punched in the case. I would be willing to bet that this was the first time I ever took part in buying something like that (and part of the reason I still do it, from time to time, though usually to my detriment).

It was a completely different album for Danny and myself. We tended to be hardrockers at the time. Rush and Van Halen were our biggest bands (we never quite bought into the full-on Heavy Metal, then, but this was because of the increasing Satanic imagery always made Danny really nervous, and still does). When not hardrocking, we were pretty straightforward classical nerds, though I am willing to say, at that time, classics were more of a concept to us than an actual appreciation. Here we have an album about prolonged synth beats and establishing a mood. New Age. What the crap was that? Sure, Danny had bought This is Techno 6, UK a year or so earlier and we had something else to put into the spin cycle. It was just, here was music not meant to be played loud for loudness sake; and not performed by an orchestra with a pedigree embedded in the very legacy of music itself. We couldn't exactly whip it out in either circle.

To put this in perspective, this was around the time that Yanni was becoming "a big deal" (however big the deal was). He had already released his first few albums, but it was before his Live at the Acropolis CD. Enya had been out, and some other European acts, but "New Age" was not quite yet mainstream in the US. Within a year or so after we bought Haze Greenfield, and had actually started saying things like "I like New Age", the term was in general use and it turned out we didn't like a lot of New Age. Or, more precisely, we didn't like pop-New Age and most pop-New Age is like pop-anything, the blandest and most digestible variations on a theme without any real bite or meaningful backbone. Had I stumbled upon a Robert Rich CD at that time, and realized that there were actually four or five genres being grouped somewhat erratically due to their down tempo and instrumentation (ranging from contemporary instrumentalists, world, ambient, dark ambient, and trance) it might have been a different story. Instead, the genre forked into two broad categories: the left-hand branch of albums with names like Pure Moods and the right-hand branch, mostly composed of piano works by John Tesh and George Winston and the like. Being something of an artificial name, it did not hold when consistency was applied across the system.

But this isn't about tracking the path of New Age as a musical pseudo-genre, this is about how that one tape stuck to our ribs. Not the tape itself, just the memory of it. Hell, we probably lost the thing before I ever started college (1996). It was an in-joke that wasn't funny. Kind of like how you talk about the "pizza incident" you and your friends had in high school even though it was really just a guy hitting himself in the face with hot cheese and falling off a couch. Just like that. It was an audiotape bought for something like five dollars (or less) and we thought it was something weird and new. We lost the tape, we could barely remember what it sounded like, but we still would talk about it once a month or so. On the phone, we would bring it up and chuckle. "Remember when we bought that tape..."

Around 2000-2001, I tried looking for it. The album, not the specific tape. No luck. I could not remember the name (Sounds of Thought). I thought the band/person name was Haze Greenwood. I assumed it was a pseudonym for whoever made up the band, maybe some combination or alteration of his/their/her real name. I was wrong on both counts, by the way, Haze is apparently his real name (maybe, but see below). When I could find no Haze Greenwood, I tried really hard to recall the cover. I made the mistake of thinking that since I could not remember an album name, then maybe Haze or Greenwood was actually the title and the other was the artist. I tried searching for Haze's Greenwood and Greenwood's Haze. No luck. The Internet was still a little too young to make absolutely everything findable, and I was making some poor assumptions that were adding too much noise into the stream.

A couple of years ago, Danny was in the middle of one of his many moves and he found the original tape. Where it had been for the past handful of years, we had no idea. He mailed me the original copy (after making one for himself). We had been talking about the thing for a decade, he was ready to share the joy. The case was gone, the tape itself was cracked. I had no way to play a tape at the time and not sure if I wanted to risk playing the old tape if I did. This is when I found out I had the wrong name and there was a title. I did another search and found only pages that would have blank spots where information should be. Links like "See all of Haze Greenfield's Albums" would, at best, return you to the page you were just on. I gave up, again.

A few weeks ago, while listening to Robert Rich's Ylang (LGT: robertrich.com), I decided to try again. Talking to Danny around the Christmas visit, he had brought up the album again (but the way he mentioned it, it seems as though he may have forgotten about giving me the original). I figured, why not? I could do this. There are few things that I cannot find when I actually want to find them. Well, the Internet has changed a lot in the past decade, and so it took me about eight seconds, this time. Kind of sad, really. The one glitch was I had temporarily lost the original tape. I could not remember what the album was called, again. I more or less went "Screw it!" and ordered the one that sounded the most New Age. Turned out I was right (and I found the original tape). So, now, something like 17 years after an impulse buy lead to two Alabama brothers talking about New Age on a regular basis for over a decade; I have in my hands one of the 1988 prints (the only one?) for Sounds of Thought complete with original artwork and etc. It is much like I remember: a little "synth" to the ears, but listenable and very relaxing and if I ever make an ambient mix-tape then a track or two off of it will most likely show up. It was more than worth the few dollars (like five or so) I payed for the used CD just to have that memory's circuit closed.

Now that I have confirmed, I think I am going to track down another used copy and have it mailed to Danny. Sort of a used CD equivalent to matching halves to a pendant.

The ending to the story hasn't quite happened, though. I have been trying to track down Haze Greenfield. The man (the legend?). No luck. The booklet says the he was a saxophonist and had been playing around the country and world (in 88) but that Sounds of Thought had been his first New Age synth sort of thing. Here's where it gets a little weird. There is an album by Hayes (say it out loud) Greenfield called Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz. The Amazon.com listing has it under "Hayes", but the song performers under "Haze". Now, Hayes has a series of albums, dating back a few years. Guess what instrument he plays? The saxophone. HayesGreenfield.com says he has been playing since the 70s. There are three or four "yes" checks for the test that asks, "Is this the same man?" At least one "no" remains: he has no mention of any divergent CDs back in the 80s. Sometimes name-branding requires such things, but I am thinking we are looking at maybe a 50/50 chance it is him or isn't him. I think I'll e-mail him, link to this entry, and say "I just had to tell you, if you are him".

Si Vales, Valeo

UPDATE: Within something like micro-seconds after posting this, I went and looked at the aforelinked HayesGreenfield.com to get more information. While there, I went back to CD releases page. If you look down at the early album covers (the 1980s ones such as All About You), closely, you can see the name on them is Haze, not Hayes. Awesome.


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