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Edip Akbayram - Edip Akbayram

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Artist: Edip Akbayram

Album: Edip Akbayram

Label: Shadoks

Review date: Jul. 20, 2006

Turkey's late-'60s and early-'70s music scene has been fertile ground for recent psych reissues, and for good reason. From the first wave of Anatolian Pop -- including Erkin Koray and Mogollar -- to the second wave, dominated by Edip Akbayram, Turkey was responsible for some marvelous, mind-blowing fusions of traditional folk music and the fuzz-driven rock coming from America and England. Information on these bands is somewhat hard to come by, as the aforementioned reissues tend to be light on background and liner notes, but Mogollar seems to have been the forerunner of the Turkish scene, the first to recognize the shared qualities of Turkish folk music and psychedelic rock. Naturally, the influences flowed both ways, as even the Beatles incorporated eastern musics into their own; but listening to the Turkish bands can be revelatory. It's startling how fitting the rock trappings (like fuzz guitar leads played in eastern scales) sound over traditional instruments and gorgeous, flowing vocals.

Edip Akbayram first came to fame after winning a major song contest in 1972, and thereafter became one of Turkey's biggest popular music stars. His band Dostlar, formed in 1973, over time included many other primary figures from the country's rock scene. Akbayram was also notable, during some of Turkey's tumultuous periods, for writing strongly social and politically left-wing songs.

This release from Shadoks, 24 songs on two CDs, spans the man's career, and makes for a tremendous introduction. As usual for Shadoks releases, the information included here is sparse, although there's more than most, with several pages of great photos. A brief essay about Akbayram is included and provides some context, but that's all. Missing is a discography, some indication of where the songs came from, what albums, when they were recorded, who the other players were, whether they're presented in chronological order or not... Really, it's not that hard, so I find it difficult to understand why anyone would put together a career retrospective of such an important figure without doing it properly.

Nonetheless, it is the music that matters. On that front, it's hard to go wrong with Akbayram, so it's all good stuff. It doesn't sound as though there's been any significant remastering here, which would have been welcome, but the quality is still quite good. The clattering percussion is usually in the background, with a foregrounded bass carrying the rhythm forward. Traditional Turkish instruments strum, hum and buzz while Akbayram's otherworldly vocals always leading the way.

With so many songs here there's no point in trying to summarize it all. From the amazing singing on "Degmen Benim Gamli Yasli Gonlume," to the buzzing of "Garip"; from the psych-funk synth of "Haberin Varmi" to the searing lead guitar that closes "Ayrilik," there's a great deal to enjoy. Moments here and there can feel a bit overblown, or even cheesy, but those are few and far between, and in almost every case the song will shift gears and go someplace great a few seconds later.

To mention one specifically, the song that won the 1972 contest and started his rise to fame, "Kukredi Cimenler," is tricky, with a beginning that threatens over-orchestration until a fast-riffing guitar and psych-drenched keyboards kick in with memorable (as always) vocals. Similarly, the closer, "Birak Beni," seems as if it's just a piano-led lounge throw-away until, halfway through, the drums double-time, the piano starts pounding away, and fuzz guitar cuts in to take things one step higher.

As an easy-to-find, expansive collection of songs, I hope that this will increase the recognition of Edip Akbayram and turn people on enough to seek out more of Turkey's psychedelic heritage. It's well worth the effort.

By Mason Jones

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