Album review: RAINBOW BRIDGE REVISITED

Gonzo [Release date 15.04.13]

OK first things first. While the significance of Jimi Hendrix’s Rainbow Bridge concert was that it was his penultimate American show, there’s nothing of interest here for the Hendrix fans, outside of a few vague anecdotes and sepia tinged photographs.

And yet the ghost of Hendrix weighs heavily on this pseudo documentary in CD and DVD format. His concert (none of which is shown) and his very presence on the Hawaiian island of Maui at the time, gave a bunch of hippies and their surfing and UFO gazing lifestyle some vague notion of meaning.

As regards the music, aside from one track from the estimable The Space Patrol and a nonsense called ‘Surf Rage’ from producer Steve Omar,  executive producer Merrell Fankhauser provides his own mix of ambient surf twang, in a Dick Dale meets Lonnie Mack kind of way.  The only Hendrix connection is his idiosyncratic version of Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and the word play on ‘The Wind Cried Maui’ . He saves his best for last, on the vaguely psychedelic ‘Calling From A Star’, which sounds good on the CD, but comes across like a video promo advert in the movie.

Hendrix’s presence or the lack of it, is a barometer of the times as a bunch of Californian, Hawaiian domiciled hippies engage in some navel gazing and look back 40 years to more spiritual times.

In truth, ‘Rainbow Bridge Revisited’ is more concerned with the surfer lifestyle that plays host to a bunch of hippies with time and presumably money on their hands, than Hendrix. Among their number was the late Harvard graduate and Andy Warhol person Chuck Wein, who approached Warner Brothers with a vague idea of making a move about surf, music and Hendrix. In fact his real concern was to make people aware of UFOs’ as he saw them as a key to earth’s destiny.

Naturally enough in those cosmic times Warner’s bought into the idea. The original posthumous movie included limited clips of Hendrix playing his Rainbow Bridge concert, courtesy of maverick manager Mike Jeffreys who knew a cash cow when he saw one.  This movie is altogether different being a retrospective affair as some of the protagonists are interviewed about the times in general, Hendrix in particular and lest we forget UFO’s.

Nobody really sheds any light on Hendrix, save for Leslie Potts who does remember the guitarist telling him: ‘Have your shit more together next time’.

Much like the original film, this DVD lacks structure and just about glues together sundry surfing clips with old home movie footage and a soundtrack that loses any semblance of subtly as each song title is flashed in front of us like an advert.

The real context of this movie is director Merrell Fankhauser’s 14 year sojourn in Hawaii, amongst the ‘hippies, surfers and cosmic people that were seeing UFO’s’.

On the latter subject, producer Steve Omar does manage to grab a couple of articulate interviewees, most notably Leslie Potts who is both highly descriptive in his memories of his UFO experiences – ‘they had no license plates’ –  and philosophical about their possible consequences, while the film is topped and tailed by surfer Paul Gebauer, a man still consistent to his counter cultural principals, as he explains the Sanskrit meaning of Antahkarana: ‘a bridge between the physical and dense 3rd dimensional reality and the higher subtle worlds’.

Even he seems wistful about the wisdom of hindsight, as he concludes; ‘40 years on, the state of the world is worse than ever, so the Rainbow Bridge could fade away’.

Should that be the case this DVD will be an extant, subjective reminder of those times even though it might have been more accurately titled, ‘Where’s Jimi?’ ***

Review by Pete Feenstra


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