Since starting my over blog six years ago I’ve had a world of new sounds open before me, but one of the most memorable and prominent discoveries for me has been an artist called Robbie Basho! I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite like him before or since!!
Widely regarded as one of the progenitors of what’s commonly known today as American Primitive guitar, Robbie Basho ( 1940-1986) grew up in Maryland alongside neo-traditional guitar explorers John Fahey and Max Ochs. Basho’s path, however, took a decidedly different turn from his peers, bringing Hindi, Indian, Japanese and Native American musical traditions into his work. His albums for Takoma and Vanguard have left a timeless and lasting influence across generations of musicians, from William Ackerman and Pete Townshend to Ben Chasny and William Tyler.
His untimely death (Basho died unexpectedly at the age of 45 due to an accident during a visit to his chiropractor, where an “intentional whiplash” experiment caused blood vessels in his neck to rupture, leading to a fatal stroke) took this unique artist from this world way too soon, leaving only a fraction of the music he could’ve/would’ve gone on to release, but what he record in his all-too short career is some of the most enchanting sounds you’ll ever hear…but you need to delve, for his sound is so versatile.
San Francisco label, Tompkins Square have just released a 5CD Box set entitled Selections from Song of the Avatars : The Lost Master Tapes after a haul of lost recordings were handed to them! This compilation of previously unpublished tracks from Basho’s personal collection of master tapes (discovered during the making of “Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho”) were produced and compiled by Liam Barker for Tompkins Square Records.
Liam Barker first became aware of Basho having purchased Tompkins Square’s reissue of Venus in Cancer, released in 2006. This led him on an incredible fact-finding expedition, unravelling the many layers of mystery surrounding Basho’s life and death, all deftly compiled and depicted in his documentary film, Voice of the Eagle : The Enigma of Robbie Basho.
During the research process, Barker came across a large cache of unheard Basho tapes recorded throughout his career, ranging roughly from 1965-1985. By arrangement with Basho’s Estate and the original custodians of the tapes, Tompkins Square is set to release Song of the Avatars : The Lost Master Tapes, a 5CD set of previously unreleased material. The label has released a single disc vinyl LP as well. The set includes notes by Barker, Henry Kaiser, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Glenn Jones and Richard Osborn, as well as many unseen photographs. An additional album was also released alongside this 5CD box set entitled, Selections from Song of the Avatars : The Lost Master Tapes and this is where today’s absolute gem can be found!
If I Had Possession is a blues tinged lament showcasing Basho’s truly magic guitar playing and heavenly soaring vocals because yes, this man was well and truly blessed with his magic guitar playing hands and glorious, multifaceted vocals to match!