Honest Jones Rec. V.A. : Open Strings -2CD- (US/D/EG/IQ/TU,1920s+2010)**°
In response to the old Middle Eastern 78s recordings from Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Turkey (EMI records) to be hear and collected on disk one various artists who had some experience of some kind with either open strings or improvising/playing occasionally in Middle Eastern modes. Convincing electrically is Sir Richard Bishop (track 1), with some resonating pitches of string edges. Paul Metzger uses a few high note resonating strings as well. His track uses a simple fundament but shows talent in improvising with it. His guitar sound is a bit weird and rough edged this time. One step deeper into the possibilities of this open tuning and the way improvisations can evolve is shown by Steffen-Basho Junghans who takes us into a next level of depth in playing, using also strange, partly dimmed chord pickings at the end of his improvisation. A more basic Middle Eastern acoustic picking is shown by Six Organs Of Admittance. Also Micah Blue Smaldone shows such a, rewarding example. Rick Tomlinson, like SRB shows an electric improvisation with an organ drone. This is more in the vein of the Lebanese electric guitarists, and has added in the second part some electric bass, a second electric guitar and acoustic percussion. The other contributions are different.
Charlie Parr plays an open tuning with a country blues association. It is rather long for its exploration, but it gets a bit wilder in the end and concludes as if it is a raga or so, while his guitar is getting out of tune, he delivers with it a charming effect. Not so successful I think was Michael Flower’s repetitive exploration. It sounds monotone and limited. The drums to it could make the track much better. It still sounds nice for a few minutes but after that hardly any change happens. Also different and electric is the Bruce Licher track in a 90s psychedelic trance style with keyboards, slide guitar and acoustic guitar, not too special. Also different is MV and EE’s interpretation which leaves a droning tempura to lead the track, where the guitar improvisation with open strings seems to respond in time with the droning and also some echoes in the pickings are added.
The album is a bit mixed with its approaches and not every guitarists succeed to add depth to the themes and playing, but I have a few preferences which are worth checking out, but no real surprises except when with some closer listen to certain details of moments.
The CD with old records I preferred to listen to afterwards. It is a collection of old 78s from the EMI archives of Egyptian/Iraqi/Iranian/Turkish origin. We must imagine that time signatures in the east or outside the west are different and that a 78 record with 3-4 minutes of improvisation are rather irrelevant in a Middle Eastern classical music context. I once experienced a remarkable Tunisian Sufi concert, of which each track lasted nearly one hour. People didn’t know at first when to clap. But each of these hours made sense and transformed and established a certain energy. Focusing one 3-4 minutes is like focusing on African tribal statues without clothing and objects and without the ritual context. It used to be THE confirmation of western investigators and public how primitive “these black creatures” were. It would be the same as investigating an empty can and decide then how little imagination western people have with art objects. What these 78” tracks still can easily reveal are some techniques. Some players didn’t even create a real ending (on track one). But as a CD with 20 of such tracks with some differences (violin/oud/saz/zither/combined) the listening pleasure builds up quickly and becomes more enjoyable and well hanging together compared to the new tracks, which have more variation in choices of sounds but already are more pattern-depending than these old fragments. One of the last tracks was a folk dance which I have heard before, without remembering its origins.