Psychedelic-Rock'n'roll: John Berberian and the Rock East Ensemble - Middle Eastern Rock (EASTERN PSYCHEDELIC ROCK US 1969)

24 June 2011

John Berberian and the Rock East Ensemble - Middle Eastern Rock (EASTERN PSYCHEDELIC ROCK US 1969)

john_berberian,middle_eastern_rock,oud,psychedelic-rocknroll,1969,armenian,front"JOHN BERBERIAN AND THE ROCK EAST ENSEMBLE - MIDDLE EASTERN ROCK" (EASTERN PSYCHEDELIC ROCK US 1969)

"John Berberian" is an Oud virtuoso born in the United States to Armenian immigrant parents.

His father was an accomplished oud player, as well as instrument maker, and oud masters of Armenian, Turkish, Arabic and Greek heritage frequented his family's home.


John Berberian (seated) and Souren Baronian circa 1965.

He first recorded traditional oud music with violinist "Reuben Sarkisian", when he was a student at Columbia University in the mid 1950s.
"John Berberian" subsequently recorded for a variety of labels including MGM, RCA, Roulette, Verve and Mainstream Records.

He expanded beyond the ethnic music market in the mid to late 1960s, decades before World Music became fashionable, with a series of LPs which explored fusions between traditional Middle Eastern music, Psychedelic Rock and Jazz.
These included "Expressions East" (1964), "Music of the Middle East" (1966), and "Middle Eastern Rock" (1969) with hot guitarist "Joe Beck".


"John Berberian" has commanded the respect of musicians worldwide. He has been featured in numerous concerts and dances throughout the USA, Canada and South America, and is one of only a handful of musicians worldwide given the title of Udi (Oud master).
He now lives in Massachusetts and maintains an active performance schedule.

"Middle Eastern Rock" (Verve FTS 3073) is one of the 'classic' albums that bridge classical Arab lute playing with Rock music, and beyond, is this one, partly because of the involvement of "Joe Beck" and his ultra Fuzz guitar.
"Joe Beck" did the same for flamenco with Sabicas around 1966, adding electric guitar skills, grounded in Blues and R&B, trying to open up one world and bridging with the other.

john_berberian,middle_eastern_rock,oud,psychedelic-rocknroll,1969,armenianOther members were "Bill LaVorgna" on drums, "Souren Baronian" on great tenor sax, "Chet Amsterdam" on "Fender Bass" guitar, "Ed Brandon" on rhythm guitar, and "Steve Pumilian" on dumbeg.

But besides the excellent Oud/Fuzz opener, most tracks, with some more peaceful calmed down moments, quickly build up it's groove through rhythmical drives (from 4/4 to 6/8 on the first few tracks).

john_berberian,middle_eastern_rock,oud,psychedelic-rocknroll,armenian,world_music,70John Berberian's press photo from the 1970s

From the original liner notes I have the following essential information:

"The Oud and The Fuzz" is an original sound that derived from the Druze tribe of Northern Africa. "Chem-O-Chem" is a popular Armenian song.
6/8 is the traditional rhythm for Armenian dances.
This features lead vocalist "Bob Tashjian".

"Flying Hye" (with 'hye' referring to (flying) Armenian) starts in 9/8 which changes to 6/8, and has a melody taken from the Greek dance form of Tsamiko.

Also "3/8 + 5/8= 8/8" refers to how complex Middle Eastern melodies can build up, based upon Turkish classical music. Because here, the 8/8 is broken up it gives the piece a special and also typical Turkish drive.

"The magic ground" is a based upon A minor (or Kurdi for Arab music), which takes off in 2/4, then breaks into a swing.

This is a groundbreaking recording that will appeal to fans of Kaleidoscope (US).

see also "Joe Beck - Nature Boy" (WILD PSYCHEDELIC ROCK US 1969) and

"John Berberian - Expressions East" (MIDDLE EASTERN FOLK US 1964)