robbie basho – voice of the eagle / visions of the country

Since I reviewed that va tribute, here’s a couple rare Basho recordings that barely get mentioned and are among his best, briefly commented.

The Voice of the Eagle

Basho on full-blast mode. His singing voice might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and can be considered “excessive”, but this being post-Starsailor there shouldn’t be much nitpicking. And guitar-wise, there really is NOTHING wrong with the album. Instrumentally, it’s one of his more “controlled” records, though some tracks wander a little bit (“Wounded Knee”, “Blue Corn Serenade”) the intention is rather conventional. There aren’t any empty or skippable cuts here (most are haunting, my favourites being “Joseph” and “Moving Up A Ways”). All in all it’s sublimely beautiful – even if it is hard to connect with the spirituality of the record, one can’t deny its intensity.

Visions of the Country


Deeply affecting. While not as spiritual as some of his other outings, it features a kind of contrived epicness inspired by the same cover. The atmosphere achieved here is bewildering. The monolithic “Green River Suite” opens with Basho half-yodeling about Wyoming and his guitar flowing down a stream of notes; follows the inspiring “Rocky Mountain Raga” in which he’s joined by poignant strings as the picture widens and we roam around the Rockies; “Variations on Easter” is a more intimate instrumental based on the works of fellow guitarist Leo Kottke; in “Orphan’s Lament” Basho switches to a rather lo-fi piano and you can perfectly picture him in some shady, empty bar playing by himself and singing to the walls; he keeps the piano in “Leaf in the Wind”, an offering to Yma Sumac, though the song is way more nervous and whistling is featured, creating an eerie ambiance – it may be the darkest song in the album; next Basho is inspired by navajo chanting and celebrates the Southwest in a very energetic guitar-driven piece; “Call on the Wind” closes the set – a goodnight song supposedly for all americans, but I’d like to join in as well. Overall, ultra solid release, Basho’s voice continues to be an aquired taste yet has shining moments, and the guitarwork is simply marvelous. Also, it’s one of his most varied and accessible albums, music-wise.
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‘Come with your ears… leave with your ears!’

November 2010
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