'Voice of the Eagle: Robbie Basho'
(Pete Townshend, Country Joe McDonald, William Ackerman, Glenn Jones, Henry Kaiser, et al / Blu-ray + 2DVD / NR / (2015) 2019 / MVD Visual)
Overview: 'Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho' is a feature-length documentary on the extraordinary life and visionary music of the American guitarist, singer and mystic Robbie Bashop.
Blu-ray Verdict: Before his bizarre death at the hands of a chiropractor, Robbie Basho was sure that his compositions would not outlast him.
Orphaned during infancy, diagnosed with synesthesia (a union of the senses that caused him to interpret sound as color) and claiming to be the reincarnation of a 17th century poet, the Baltimore-born, Berkeley-based guitarist and singer's musical output was equally as outlandish as his persona.
In his brief and troubled life he laid the foundations for radical changes to the musical landscape of America during the 1960s and '70s but reaped little more than a sparse (if fervent) following during his lifetime.
'Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho' is a journey into the heart of an artist's lifelong struggle: designed to illuminate and satiate existing fans while serving as a perfect starting point for the uninitiated.
Featuring interviews with Basho's former students, contemporaries and few close friends (including Pete Townshend, William Ackerman, Henry Kaiser and Country Joe McDonald), the documentary integrates new information and anecdotes on Basho with previously uncovered archive material and photography of the landscapes and natural phenomena that informed his work.
Watching intently along, for I knew nothing of this man beforehand and wanted to learn everything I could from this highly entertaining 87 minute long now documentary rather than the interweb, the amazing thing that immediately stands out (from the many people interviewed) was that Robbie “never became that famous” during his lifetime.
Like Vincent Van Gogh, he was recognized while he lived, but by the discerning ones. Many speak of him here as "way ahead of his time,” with one of his former colleague's adding that "Sometimes you have to die first”!
A deeper look into the life of Basho reveals he had been an orphan (one of his musical pieces is titled 'Orphan’s Lament') and had been adopted as a young boy by Dr. Donald Robinson and his wife; who lived in the U.S. city of Baltimore, Maryland.
Basho was drawn to music at an early age, his stepsister says in the film, and was always good at it. While attending the University of Maryland in the early ‘60s, still going by the name Robbie Robinson, he began his musical career doing Kingston Trio covers at cafes.
Soon, however, he dove into deeper waters.
'Voice of the Eagle: Robbie Basho' continually showcases the fact that no matter what you thought of him and his opinions and such, Basho was utterly unique.
Indeed, labels such as “new age classical” or “visionary world music” only hint at the depth and breadth of his compositions.
Basho entered the stream of world musical, cultural and spiritual traditions, and in a career spanning two decades, created some 15 albums that embrace Hindu, Japanese, Persian and American Indian styles and values, as well as others. Among his many kinds of instrumentals were pieces in the style of the Indian raga.
Robbie’s rich and resonant voice adds visionary lyrics to many of his songs as well and that is what bleeds through here more than anything.
Unfortunately, as aforementioned, his life ended in a freak accident during a chiropractic treatment in 1986, when he was only 46 years old.
In closing, 'Voice of the Eagle: Robbie Basho' shows us a gifted man, perhaps even beyond his innate talent and passion, with a strong sense of musical interpretation.
I mean, what more would you expect from a man who could “hear colors”? This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Extended & Deleted Interviews