The late Michael Apted talks about the “Up Series” on “Fresh Air”with Terri Gross

The documentarian, who died Jan. 7, spent decades following the lives of a group of British citizens, updating their stories with a new episode every seven years. Originally broadcast in 2013.

Film Review – Voice Of The Eagle: The Enigma Of Robbie Basho

Danny Riley reviews a new documentary about the American guitarist and mystic, Robbie Basho

Forget Gram Parsons and Gene Clark – Robbie Basho is the true voice of Cosmic Americana.

It is puzzling why the why the legacy of this unparalleled innovator of the acoustic guitar has fared so poorly in comparison to his label boss – the more popular and fashionable John Fahey. Whilst Fahey continues to project an inscrutably cool, sardonic air through his steel-string subversions of American folk-blues, Basho comes to us all open-hearted joy and sincere, religious conviction. I’d argue it is our culture’s general unease with all of these latter qualities that has acted to the detriment of the reach of his fandom. He was a guitarist of unparalleled innovation who alchemically combined elements of Indian, East Asian, British and various other folk musics to create near-symphonic odes to the American West and the human soul. In its valiant attempt and ultimate failure to get right to the heart of this baffling and beguiling musician, Liam Barker’s documentary Voice Of The Eagle: The Enigma Of Robbie Basho will do a lot to redress this critical imbalance.

Formed mainly from the video testimonials of the few people that knew Basho at all – his adopted family, a smattering of fellow musicians, the students he taught guitar and his religious associates – the film reveals details of his life and lifestyle unknown to the vast proportion of his followers. Perhaps tellingly it is the acquaintances he met through religious avenues, namely the members of the California sect Sufi Reoriented, that feature most prominently, illustrating in itself Basho’s deep and abiding commitment to spiritual enquiry. Conversely, Basho’s status as an outlier guitarist is made self-evident in the interviews with his contemporary musicians. There are some rather questionable comments from Pete Townshend – American Primitive enthusiast and also a follower of Basho’s spiritual leader Meher Baba (“I’m very influenced by Basho’s playing, you can hear it in my work”), whilst countercultural icon Country Joe MacDonald seem barely able to remember anything about his meetings with Basho. It seems that temporal distance was required for his genius to be truly appreciated, as is seen in the words of more recent musicians – Glenn Jones comes off as a veritable Basho scholar, whilst Steffen Basho-Junghans swears by some form of metaphysical connection with the late guitarist.

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Documentary: “In Search of English Folk Song”

Famed filmmaker Ken Russell tours the countryside in search of the roots of the English folk song in this eye-opening documentary. His travels reveal the history of the form, its remnants in modern music and the ways it evolved as it was carried to Ireland and the New World. Performances and interviews with Donovan, Fairport Convention, June Tabor and other artists help illustrate the changing face of English folk music through the centuries.

The Ballad of Shirley Collins Now Streaming

FIRE FILMS announce feature documentary THE BALLAD OF SHIRLEY COLLINS about the iconic English singer is now streaming for the first time via Vimeo on Demand, including the first-ever digital release of a host of bonus materials.

BONUS MATERIALS:

  • Audio commentary version of the film with Shirley Collins in discussion with the directors Tim Plester and Rob Curry
  • Featurette telling the story of Shirley’s secret comeback show at the Union Chapel in 2014. Includes the full footage of the show itself.
  • Behind the scenes film exploring the making of the film’s mesmerising reconstruction footage.
  • Field recordings of Sam Amidon and Elle Osborne playing songs they learned from Shirley Collins 

The singer who lost her voice.

Having been an indelible presence in the English folk scene for more than 20 years, Shirley Collins was until recently remembered predominantly for losing her voice in mysterious circumstances in the 1980s. This film explores [ . . . ] Continue reading

Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

The captivating trailer for new drama Cilla, starring award winning actress Sheridan Smith. Just in case you were wondering, thats actually her singing too!

Acclaimed writer Jeff Pope has penned Cilla, a three-part drama for ITV, starring Sheridan Smith as the famous Liverpudlian songbird.

Sheridan will be joined in the cast by Aneurin Barnard as Cilla’s husband Bobby, Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, John Henshaw as Cilla’s father, John White and Melanie Hill is Cilla’s mother.

‘Cilla’ tells of her rocky rise to fame and will capture the essence of 1960s Liverpool, the atmosphere of promise and excitement as the Merseybeat music scene was on the verge of exploding in a blaze of tight-fitting skirts, stiletto heels, and beehives.

A young, unknown Cilla works in the austere environs of the typists’ pool at a local company, dreaming of stardom. The drama looks at how she met the two men who came to love her and ultimately fought over her – future husband Bobby Willis and legendary manager Brian Epstein, the tragic young businessman who also guided the career of The Beatles.

We learn how Cilla’s burgeoning friendship with John, Paul, George and Ringo – the four young men who went on to conquer the music world – shaped her career. It was family friend Ritchie Starkey (Ringo), the teddy-boy with a greasy quiff, who help her to cross paths with Brian Epstein and producer George Martin – who were to launch her career with recording sessions at the world famous Abbey Road Studios.

The ITV Studios production will recount the dark days of her early career, her on-off relationship with Bobby, a baker at Woolworth’s with the gift of the gab, who struggled to accept Cilla’s iron determination to succeed and become a star at the expense of practically every other area of her life.

Cilla is available to watch in the US online at Acorn