Various Artists

Turkish Delights
Hava Narghile
Devil's Anvil

In these anxious times of war and terror, our nation's ties to the world around us are testy at best -- particularly with our Islamic allies like Turkey. Sure, the Middle Eastern country's a NATO member and is currently trying to talk its way into the European Union, but how do the Turks really feel about American values such as democracy, fast food, and rock 'n' roll? While the jury's out on the first two topics, there's a long record on the musical front, as these three recent reissues demonstrate.

The Turkish devotion to psychedelic rock ran deeper than most non-English-speaking countries' -- the golden age of Ottoman psychedelia lasted from the mid-'60s, when liberal cosmopolitanism held sway, up through the late '70s, when dictatorship came back into vogue. Disco, glam, and punk barely made a dent in Ankara or Istanbul, but wah-wah pedals and Farfisa organs remained in the Turkish Top 40 almost until the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

With kids across the globe emulating the Beatles and Byrds during the '60s, this music rarely matched the intensity of the originals or revealed much about the countries where it was made. The Turks were different, since their home-grown rock scene didn't simply ape the style of Britain or the U.S.A., but rather developed its own unique character. This nativism was partly due to a late-'60s newspaper contest called Altin Mikrofon, which required bands to take traditional folkloric material and make it into something electric and wild.

Although a handful of cover tunes pop up on the Turkish Delightsand Hava Narghile collections, most of the material is distinctly Asiatic or Islamic, and almost all the songs are sung in Turkish, a tongue that bears no linguistic ties to our own. The instruments are often traditional as well, with ouds, durbekis, and bazoukis twining around the fuzzed-out electric guitars. For the most part, Hava Narghile concentrates its fire on pumped-up traditional themes, while Delights delves into heavier grooves, from Yardbirds-y rave-ups to Blue Cheer-style hard rock.

An even more surprising entry into this field is the Devil's Anvil album, Hard Rock From the Middle East, recorded in 1967 by a New York- based band that included rock/classical gadabout Felix Pappalardi and several Turkish and Egyptian émigrés. While not strictly a Turkish band, Devil's Anvil does bring the specter of Islamic rock even closer to home, as if to say, "It happened here once, it could happen again." And since all these discs sound pretty damn good, a new pop invasion might be just what this country needs.

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