Lost Souls: Basho to Baker Edition

The world is full of strange stories, and the music scene is no exception. Pardon me if I skip over providing some examples – I’m sure everyone has their favorite tales. Let me skip more directly to a couple upcoming projects that shine the light on a couple musicians who could qualify as “lost souls.”

On Oct. 25, Light in the Attic Records is releasing a pair of albums from the singer/songwriter Jim Sullivan, who made two minor label albums (one in 1969; the other in 1972) before mysteriously vanishing in 1975. LitA, which re-issued Sullivan’s debut album, even did a short doc on Sullivan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsIouGN0Wr8) that looks into his life and disappearance in the New Mexico. And did I say that his debut album was entitled U.F.O.? Anyway, LitA is now putting out a deluxe version of Sullivan’s self-titled sophomore effort, a 1972 album that came out on Hugh Hefner’s short-lived Playboy label. They also are issuing If The Evening Were Dawn, a previously unreleased solo acoustic studio session (circa 1969) that features over a half dozen previously unheard compositions written by him.

Robbie Basho’s name is slightly better known – particularly if you are into the ‘70s so-called “primitive American guitar” movement (where John Faheyand Leo Kottkewere among the prominent players). Like Sullivan, Basho had a rather mysterious death as he died in 1986 due to a fatal fluke accident during a chiropractic session. The guitarist, who released albums on Takoma, Vanguards and Windham Hill labels, is the subject of the documentary Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho that features appearances by Pete Townshend, Henry Kaiser and Country Joe McDonald. Directed by Liam Barker, the film has been making the festival circuit in recent years and now MVD Entertainment will put out Dec. 13 on Blu-ray/DVD.

In February 2020, MVD will present a 50th anniversary Blu-ray and HD Digital “Ultimate Edition” of The Point! The Point! was an elaborate concept album by the eccentric Harry Nilsson that later became an animated ABC movie-of-the-week in 1971. It is rather amazing to think that this psychedelic-dosed, Seussian film was a network movie-of-the-week. But that’s the early 70s for you! This edition features a 2K HD scan from a rare 16mm print as well as being packed with extras – some vintage and some new (including an interview with voice-over cast member Mike Lookinland (yes, Bobby Brady!). Plus, Nilsson’s pal, a chap named Ringo Starr, provides the narration. 

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The Chet Baker revival was kick-started by the 1988 documentary Let’s Get Lost, which revealed the highly talented jazz musician who squandered so much of his talent. Craft Records has compiled a new vinyl boxset, The Legendary Riverside Albums, that contains Baker’s four albums – (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To YouChet Baker In New YorkChet and Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe – that he made with the legendary jazz label along with a bonus disc of choice outtakes and alternates from Baker’s Riverside sessions. The recordings reveal an interesting musical summit between Baker’s west coast “cool jazz” style with east coast players who had a harder bopping sound. The sessions capture Baker before his drug use really overtook him in the early 60s.  

I won’t end this on some philosophical note that deftly ties all these artists together. The point (reference intended) is really just shine the spotlight a bit on these cult musicians whose followings (whether big or small) don’t match their talents.  I will leave you all instead with the trailer for The Point.

About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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