Album of the Week 21-2013: Barış Manço – 2023

Despite the fact that music is often seen as a universal language, the language barrier can easily keep music from being universally accepted. Had Barış Manço’s 1975 masterpiece ‘2023’ not been sung in the Turkish language, it would probably have been agreed upon as a masterpiece in progressive Rock. Its spacey synths and constantly changing rhythms would have been in vogue in the mid-seventies and although some of the sounds of Manço’s Anatolian Rock vibe may appear somewhat foreign to the untrained western ear, it’s exactly that what makes the music so appealing.

Manço was, along Cem Karaça and guitar wizard Erkin Koray, one of the three greats of Turkish Rock music. By fusing western styles with Turkish elements – most notably the brilliant melodies from their Folk music – these men created the unique Anatolian Rock sound. Manço mainly released singles prior to ‘2023’, his first true album. A conceptual piece at that. My limited command of the Turkish language prevents me from going into details too much, but there is a great deal of continuity on ‘2023’, with the album being of consistently high quality after the relatively weak opening track ‘Acıh’da Bağa Vir’ (which sounds like it’s been tossed on to have some sort of a single on there), joining Manço on an exciting sonic adventure.

Two very long tracks are accompanied by a handful of shorter ones and all of them work quite well. The title track is a lengthy, largely instrumental track with only a few spoken passages by Manço and a great deal of atmosphere and ‘Baykoca Destanı’ is more of a multi-part suite with a couple of stand-alone songs, the most awesome of which – ‘Vur Ha, Vur’ – was also released separately. It’s only really a medley because of the melodies of the long instrumental passages that open the song returning later. That’s not a complaint though, the song is mind-blowingly amazing.

But the shorter songs are just a good. Even if they’re just short instrumentals like ‘Tavuklara Kışşşt De’, which has some wacky effects, but also some amazing Anatolian melodies. ‘Uzun Ince Bir Yoldayım’ is a beautiful, dreamy rendition of Turkish blind minstrel Âşık Veysel’s renowned song, which I personally knew from Pentagram’s version (they used the title ‘Gündüz Gece’, but it’s the same song). The main riff to ‘Yine Yol Göründü Gurbete’ reminds me of The Doobie Brothers a little, while its uplifting and catchy chorus is reminiscent of late sixties Pop music, closing track ‘Kol Bastı’ has a distinctly psychedelic atmosphere and ditto brilliant guitar leads and ‘Yolverin Ağalar Beyler’, though relatively simple in structure, surprises with its unpredictablility.

All I can say is: don’t let the language keep you from this album. After all, I don’t speak Turkish either, but I thoroughly enjoy this album and in fact most of Barış Manço’s repertoire. Manço did a brilliant job here and so did his fantastic backing band Kurtalan Ekspres, even though bassist extraordinaire Ahmet Güvenç had yet to join at this point. My only advice would be to put on your headphones and join Manço on his marvellous journey to ‘2023’.

Recommended tracks: ‘Baykoca Destanı’, ‘Uzun Ince Bir Yoldayım’, ‘Kol Bastı’

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