Ali Baba and his 40..Rec. V.A. : Waking Up Scheherazade vol.2 (var,comp.2010)***°'
Obviously lots of research (and money perhaps) went into this release with possibly lots of previous misses before having the right suitable tracks for this compilation. I know people will be sceptical if someone presents them a compilation of Arab garage, everybody knows most sellers call something psych or garage a little too easily. But this is the real thing. I gave it a few listens and there is in fact not one track that should not have been included.
The Wrong Noise immediately is a winner. This is really garage psych from Egypt (!!), defined with a crossover element. There is a repetitive Northern African Area music element on one hand, but this is definitely played by a garage band.
Also Shar Habeel's track, from the biggest Arabian African country, Sudan (lying underneath Egypt) is from this nature. This is a mixture of post-rock'n roll garage with a singing sax, twingling guitars, the song itself is sung in Arabic. Also this is a perfect crossover.
Abdelhadi's track (from Morroco) starts like a garage track with electric rhythm guitars and lots of congas before an Arab orchestra comes in as a surprise too with a far eastern Ali Baba effect. Then a short while later near wordless vocals are added too. This is Arab music with a clear rock'n roll influence.
Once more surprise was the real psych winner from Feridun Foroughi from Iran, a waltz led by what we call “psych organ” and with smooth drumming. It has several rhythm changes and parts, some of these with more clear drummins and some soft electric guitar, some of which has wahwah effects. It is a beautiful for-all-the-world instrumental.
The band News from Lebanon has a mod track included without crossover elements and sung in English.
Dorid Laham's track (Syria) also starts like a rock'n roller with a sort of African touch and some joyful approach accompanied with harmony backing vocals, before it switches towards a belly dance rhythm, switching once more to the rock'n roller with vocals in Arabic.
This is followed by another early sixties Moroccan garage song by Les Freres Megri with strong electric bass, drums, electric guitars and dual vocals with a heavenly dreamy female vocal overdub. After a short while and a break it has a psychedelic instrumental middle with improvisation, with the female colouring vocalist leading before the full band before the dual male vocals takes over the song swing again. A real surprise, because I didn't expect or think tracks like this from Morroco existed.
We heard already one Soli track (Iran) before on a previous compilation. Here is included the instrumental B-side. It has Indian tabla percussion, an orchestration with brass arrangements and Indian flute mixed jazzier style, and a lead electric guitar with wahwah effects for the song part. Another must-have!
Tony Franks and The Hippie Souls comes from Lebanon and is again more mod-styled, with English vocals. It has a repetitive r&b rhythm and some trumpet improvisation on top of the rhythm guitar.
This is followed by another garage/belly dance crossover from Egypt from the Wrong Notes again, played with psych organ, drum, percussion and bass and a brass band section, with the vocalists counting and shouting numbers in Spanish.
Also the next track from the Shar 'Habeel (Sudan) comes from the same area of styles, from the late rock'n roll period with organ, electric swinging guitars and sax solos, with a clear crossover mix and with Arab vocals. Some very swinging guitars can be heard here and a nice energy interaction between the different guitars and the sax.
Another surprise was the near off-beat organ madness of free improvisation with a couple of strange effects of sort of electronic nature with complex percussion on drums and belly dance percussion instruments on a Moroccan single by Naïma Samith. This improvisation turns a couple of times to a more recognisable Arab tune with high shrill lillililing female backing vocalists. Brilliant, inspired, and original.
Back to Tony Franks and the Hippie Souls with a very western sounding swinging mod-styled song played by a rock band.
The LP ends with a last English styled 60s psych ballad by the Armenian based Jo and The New Magnifici based in Lebanon, a track with dozens of overdub layers of vocal harmonies, to an almost classical baroque degree within this psych rock context, an attractive hit-sensitive winner.
I can't think of a better introduction to the Arab's own garage psych period.