CBS 1976 / Pharaway Sounds 2018
Anatolian nightingale’s futile attempt to fill European forests with Eastern song.
He might have been larger than life in his native Turkey, yet Bariş Manço always dreamed of taking his art outside the country, too, to the wider world which looked so accessible from the heights of Istanbul – and it was a possibility in 1976, when the singer went to Belgium to cut new versions of pieces from the previous year’s “2023” and add new numbers to those, thus creating a different concept and attaching Anglicized name to this record’s cover. Unfortunately, even English lyrics and perfect delivery couldn’t endear him to Western audiences who preferred their own parochial pop while listening closely to trendsetters from England; more so, Manço couldn’t offer anything genuinely original to prospective listeners with a slightly retro sonics so favorable back at home. There’s charm to every Bariş’ release but “Nick The Chopper” is the strangest entry in the musician’s rich cache.
If there’s a story to this album, it’s very vague, the creepy title track that rewrites “Johnny B. Goode” and “Mean Mr. Mustard” for a forest location in Asia Minor failing to impress, the dervish swirl of the chorus notwithstanding, whereas, wrapped in an Eastern meander, “Emerald Garden” possesses strong magnetism. The same can hardly be said of “Little Darlin’ (We’ll Be Kissing)” which sees orchestral drama dissolved in overtly sentimental, in a soap-opera manner, arrangements, and although electric guitars may emulate traditional instruments, they lose sharpness along the way. Still, he middle-of-the-road effusiveness of “Lonely Man” feels attractive – exactly the effect the writer was after – and, for all its patinated gloss, “Blue Morning Angel” is a nice display of Bariş’ talent for a sparkling tune.
Given a soulful uplift and a soaring six-string solo, “Lady Of The Seventh Sky” houses the singer’s most charming roulades; however, the calypso groove underneath “Old Paulin'” sounds somewhat incongruous in an Anatolian setting, unlike “Ride On Miranda” that, quite unexpectedly, turns out to be a solid slab of blues. A mixed bag, then, something Bariş Manço didn’t really like, which is why his experiments got limited afterwards – on works such as "Sözüm Meclisten Disari" – to prog elements within folk-rock idiom. “Nick The Chopper” remains the odd one out, a fairy tale in a serious world the artist couldn’t conquer.