Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Psychedelic Exotica of The Orient Express

Namaste! I was interviewed recently by the very nice DJ Jess at BreakThruRadio. And our pal Count Otto is back: "The Orient Express took the hippy trope of bunging sitars on your albums willy-nilly because George Harrison thought it was a good idea to its perfectly logical extreme and recruited actual Indians, amongst other nationalities, as fully integrated members of the group. Ironically this made their music too exotic for the US market, and they ended up as an obscure footnote to the psychedelic scene. But did any other sixties band sound quite like this? I think you'll agree that more of them should have."

I certainly agree. This oddity is a fascinating bit of rock-xotica. Were there any bona-fide Indians in the band? Discogs sez: "Guy Duris was actually born on the Left Bank and later met Farshid Golesorkhi, who had been decorated by the Shah of Iran for his drumming and was interested in applying Eastern rhythms to Western music, in Iran. They met Bruno Giet, a Belgian pilot and guitarist, in Paris while traveling around Europe. Soon the three members headed for America and settled in New York's East Village initially but ended up in California where their album was recorded."  So it appears that they were European and Iranian, but jumped on the raga-rock bandwagon. Audiences weren't so hung up on 'authenticity' back then. They probably thought: hey, they're still "foreigners," so what dif does it make? 

It really doesn't make any difference. Good music is good music, and this is some good stuff, as traditional hand percussion meets drum kits, and stringed things (lutes? mandolins?) rock like guitars. Remarkably free of kitsch, it's an organic mixture of all original songs, unlike those goofy (if amusing) sitar-sploitation albums. I esp. dig the proto-kraut drone of "Layla" (not the Derek and the Dominoes one) and the furious funkiness of "Azar" and "Train To Bombay." And "A Little Star" is solid bubblegum. Surely The Monkees could have used this, perhaps in an episode of their TV show where they meet with a guru or sumthin?

The Orient Express (1969)

Continued thanks to Count Otto Black for his unearthing of '60s garage/psych rarities.


Anonymous said...

Nice to be appreciated! Since you wondered about the instruments, here they are:

Guy Duris - electric oud, electric sitar, vocals
Farshid Golesorkhi - electric melodica, dumbek, timpani, vocals
Bruno Giet - electric minitar, vocals

The lute-like "stringed thing" is the oud - near-as-dammit a lute. I must admit I can't find out what a "minitar" is: maybe it's some sort of up-market ukulele? For those who don't know, a dumbek is a hand-drum, and a melodica is a slightly silly thing that you blow down.

Anonymous said...

Burning Elephant: tell me what you guys think