About LAV ELI-
Liner Notes by Raffi Meneshian
I remember the day fairly well. It was the end of May 2001 at Ashot Margarian’s Blues Bar somewhere around the outskirts of Yerevan, Armenia when I witnessed the last chapter of the great Vanazor, Armenia rock scene unfolding before me. And, it was all by accident.
A tall lanky local Armenian kid with an electric guitar in his hand walked up to the stage followed by a Peace Corp volunteer from Hartwick, NY. They played a few numbers and promptly delved into some English pop music to the tune of “Down Under” by Men at Work. I wasn’t really impressed by the music, instead focusing on the commotion going on in the audience. A healthy mix of locals and American Peace Corp volunteers were hitting the dance floor hard with plenty of drinks to go around. Suddenly the door opened and a small, compact, distinguished looking fellow came into bar and took a seat in the back of the room. The crowd of about 100 inside the bar erupted into spontaneous applause and suddenly the chants began. LAV ELI, LAV ELI, LAV ELI!
Since the term “Lav Eli” has many meanings in Armenia, I had no clue what was going on around me. After the band onstage finished playing their set, they hopped off the stage and the tall, lanky, kid walked over to the table where the commotion was aimed at and shook the hand of the man who just walked through the door. At that moment, the place went nuts and again the chanting began. LAV ELI, LAV ELI, LAV ELI. The pair walked toward the front of the room, picked up their guitars, and went onstage joining the house band. The two friends and former band members from the earthquake devastated city of Vanazor, Armenia were finally back together after a 2 year hiatus from their legendary rock creation, LAV ELI. They played a few numbers and then left the stage to a thunderous applause.
LAV ELI is a rock band from Vanazor, Armenia that was formed in 1996 by Mher Manoukyan and Gor Mkhitarian. Previously from the band SNACK, they picked up two members from the group ALQ in David Grigoryan and Vahe Terteryan and formed their classic lineup for a demo recording in 1997 entitled “The First Lav Album”. This limited edition cassette of two hundred units was printed in Armenia and had twenty-one songs- ten in English and eleven in Armenian. It became a local underground classic in the hands of kids and adults alike who craved an original Western rock sound that was homegrown and Armenian. In 1999, another LAV ELI recording was made in the name of “Essays”, this time with the help of a local Armenian rock champion named Artyom Ayvazyan who gave it heavy radio airplay on the influential Yerevan based Radio Burg program on 107.1 FM. Although the recording was never released in any format, burned copies of the “Essay” sessions passed hands within a dedicated rock music listening mass throughout Armenia. Suddenly, the rock quartet was playing in medium sized venues throughout Yerevan in addition to appearances on TV on shows such as the popular “Rubicon” and “Barev”. Their frequent radio play yielded hits such as “The Traveler’s Song” and “I Found You In Heaven”. Even though there still was no widespread commercial outlet to purchase their music, their popularity grew via the live shows, TV appearances, and general media exposure. Suddenly, in December of 1999, it all ended with a difference of opinion between band members on how the group should parlay their success going forward.
The history of this album you have in your hands stems from that one night in May 2001. The compact, distinguished looking man who walked through the door was Mher Manoukyan, the chief lyricist and a creative force behind the group. The tall, lanky kid onstage was Gor Mkhitarian who would go on to achieve modest fame as an Armenian world music solo artist who debuted on my own Pomegranate Music label through two albums, “Yeraz” and “Godfather Tom: Music from the Armenian Underground”. The Peace Corp volunteer on stage with Gor was Aaron Stayman, who would end up being Gor’s main collaborator during his Armenia recording sessions.
“Notes from Vanazor: Urban Armenian Rock” has its own unique history. After the Gor “Yeraz” sessions, and right before the “Godfather Tom” sessions in Armenia, Gor proposed a new project. He wanted to capture a piece of his own past while reconnecting with Mher, David, and Vahe, the original LAV ELI lineup. I went ahead and greenlit the project and in December of 2001, the project was started. They recorded music on and off over a period of fourteen months picking their very best material for a tight ten track album. The master was delivered to me in Boston, USA during February of 2003 ready to print. Everything was ready to go. However, as is the case with many independent world music labels after the digital revolution, we didn’t have the funds to release the CD and the project was shelved indefinitely.
In the two years that have passed since I received the master CD, Gor Mkhitarian and Vahe Terteryan have since relocated to the Los Angeles area. Mher Manoukyan lives and works in Yerevan, Armenia with David Grigoryan commuting between Vanazor and Yerevan working and playing in various bands. While the musicians have gone their separate ways, the LAV ELI sessions represented a second chance for a unique part of Armenian rock history to be recorded with the benefit of hindsight from all of its members. Although it may be hard to believe, “Notes from Vanazor: Urban Armenian Rock” is the first commercially released CD from the band that music enthusiasts can finally purchase and enjoy. Four years after the first note was recorded, and nearly ten years after the band was formed, here we are.
A Pomegranate Music ProductionFEATURING THE SONG: SPRING HAS COME
Produced by Lav Eli
Executive Producer: RM
Street Date: December 20, 2005
Pre Order and Online Listening Samples at CD Baby: December 1, 2005
Copyrights and Publishing Rights: Lav Eli 2005
Exclusively Manufactured, Marketed, and Distributed by Pomegranate Music
Design Team: Gayaneh Alexanyan- Armenia; Arsineh Khachikian- USA
Cover Design: Arsineh Khachikian
Photos: Winslow Martin
Special Consultant: Aramazd Ghalamkharyan
Recording Engineer: Mika Margarian
Recorded in Yerevan, Armenia December 2001-January 2003