Robbie Basho

Zarthus

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Robbie Basho's Zarthus, dating from 1974, is, in his own words, "An album of Persian, Arabic, Westerns Themes (sic), woven together into a single 'Fabric D'Amour' to cover the barren manekin (sic) of modern times." Easily the album that most indulges his obsessions with Eastern modal scales and odd meters, and even Western classical themes. All of it is grounded in Basho's guitar though, and the discs first two tracks, "Zarthus" (dedicated to Meher Baba, Pete Townshend's guru) and "Khoda é Gul é Abe," are driving 12-string numbers, possessed as much by the rhythm of the mridingham as they are by Basho's trademark open tonal wandering up and down the fret board. There is some single string playing in "Zarthus," but both tunes are overdriven from the fluid, liquidy percussive strum and drag of his lightning quick right hand. On "Mehera" and "Khalil Gibran," Basho employs the use of a piano as well as his guitars and his voice. For those who were put off by the singing on Voice of the Eagle, this is easier to handle, melodic and true if oddly constructed. All of it is based on drones and the cascading up and down is limited in range. The poetry in his lyrics is spiritually beautiful. The album's capper is the 19-plus minute "Rhapsody in Druz." The first half is a beautiful love song to a spiritual master, and the last half is an exercise in droning strings, both on the piano and the guitars, rumbling microtonally against one another in tandem and causing overtonal vibrations between them. While this is not Basho's finest recorded moment, it is certainly a very good one, and all fans of the development of his music should take notes of its compositions as well as of his truly innovative piano playing.

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