Various Artists

Hava Narghile: Middle Eastern Raga Rock Ala Turqui, 1966-1975 (Turkish Rock Music)

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The late '90s saw the first widespread interest in North America regarding various Asian psych scenes from the 1960s and beyond, with broad-ranging compilations soon being supplanted by even more specialized efforts. 2001's Hava Narghile, the first in a proposed series, looks specifically at Turkey's homegrown rock efforts from 1966 to 1975. The result is an entertaining blast, though there's always the caveat with such collections that a few numbers are merely fine if unremarkable recreations of pioneering work elsewhere. When it comes to the real winners, though, Hava Narghile is well worth a listener's time and money. The presentation itself is a sheer delight, with some bizarre cover images supplemented by a near-exhaustive slew of photos of the bands featured, ephemera like posters, and record label art. The compilation's assemblers, Jay Dobis and Gökhan Aya, provide exhaustive liner notes, while the mastering quality is quite fine, allowing for the fact that nearly everything is taken from vinyl. As for the performances, there's everything from surf-tinged instrumentals to proto-disco funk, nearly all combined with some element of Turkish folk music, either in terms of song source or, excitingly, the use of electric saz, the Turkish equivalent to the guitar. Notable winners include Baris Manço and Kaygisizlar's collaboration, "Flower of Love," an amazing, dreamy fusion from 1968, and the jittery, murky grooves of Uç Hürel's "...Ve Olüm." The source of some of the songs alone is often fascinating -- Kaygisizlar's "Sasidrim" was actually a great cover of the Id's "Short Circuit," a late-'60s American rarity, while other tunes are takes on traditional numbers, or even covers of psych band hits from Lebanon! Many of the singers brilliantly and similarly combine roots approaches with roughed-up garage vocals, while others play up the contrast of smoother delivery and frenetic music.

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