Sunday, January 27, 2013

Waterloo - First Battle (1970-71 belgium, wispy psych folk with organ heavy bombast, extra tracks edition)

There’s an old gag particularly prevalent in Britain that goes along the lines of “I bet you can’t name five famous Belgians”. In fact this small bilingual, bicultural European country has produced more celebrities than you’d think: Gérard Mercator, designer of the universal map projection that bears his name; Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone; and Georges Simenon, creator of classic fictional detective Maigret, are just three. Perhaps thinner on the ground are famous Belgian musicians: poetic songwriter Jacques Brel is certainly the best known, and then there’s Jean “Toots” Thielemans who uniquely plays jazz on chromatic harmonica . . . and of course Plastic Bertrand.

Prior to 1980 or thereabouts, home-grown Belgian rock bands were certainly a select species, at least in terms of penetration outside their homeland and France. Waterloo was a fine, sturdy prog-rock outfit in the English mould of the late 1960s, coming together in ’69 with members from two just-folded Belgian pop-psych groups, releasing their sole album the following year and folding themselves about a year later after precious little commercial success. Their musical pedigree was beyond doubt; organist Marc Malyster was a conservatoire-trained keyboard player, whilst lead vocalist/flautist Dirk Bogaert had been an operatic boy soprano and drummer Jacky Mauer was steeped in jazz. With the workmanlike rock chops of guitarist Gus Roan who also doubled on flute, and bass guitarist Jean-Paul Janssens, they covered all the bases.

First Battle was recorded in England with all the lyrics in English; given this plus the band’s propensity for driving three-four rhythms and breathy flute accompaniments, it’s no surprise they frequently recall Mick Abrahams-period Jethro Tull. However Malyster’s organ work marks them out from the Brit combo, favouring a churchy drawbar setting on his Hammond and incorporating plenty of Bach-like touches in the style of his main rock influence, Keith Emerson. 

The album offers nine tightly-composed, tightly-performed songs, none breaching the four-minute barrier, all with tuneful pop sensibility and lyrical hooks and featuring fine harmony vocals and terse, pithy solos. Only on the ten-minute closing opus “Diary Of An Old Man” is each player is given the chance to feature more extensively, with excellent expositions by Bogaert on simultaneous flute and scat vocal and by Roan who finally gets to really stretch out on guitar. 

Pick of the other tracks are the Tullish “Why May I Not Know” which sets out the band’s stall for the following numbers; the jazzy, socially aware “Black Born Children” which thematically if not musically recalls the Nice’s “Daddy, Where Did I Come From”; and the splendid classically-harmonised riff of “Life” which also features a vocal dialogue, fruity flute obbligati and muscular bass guitar work. In all honesty there are no weak tracks anywhere on this album. The record was cut at an unidentified Soho eight-track studio under producer David McKay (who also masterminded Belgium’s other high-profile group of the day, Wallace Collection) and the sound quality, at least on the CD reissue, is exemplary, being powerful and clean with each lead instrument deftly forefronted.

Tensions within the band must have surfaced soon after the recording, because Janssens was gone by July ’70 and Malyster bailed soon after. Replacements were found but the tight, virtuosic sound of the original lineup was never emulated; the band struggled on for another year or so, cutting a couple of singles that strangely reverted to a pop-psych template. These were included as bonus cuts on the first (vinyl) reissue of First Battle by French musicians’ cooperative label Musea, now long out of print, and also appear on the excellent CD reissue by Spanish imprint Guerszen which is still available. Devotees of the Nice, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple and other early progressive rockers will find a lot to like on this collection.
1. Meet Again - 3:02
2. Why May I Not Know - 3:06
3. Tumblin' Jack - 2:34
4. Black Born Children - 3:42
5. Life - 2:45
6. Problems - 2:58
7. Why Don't You Follow Me? - 3:30
8. Guy In The Neighbourhood - 2:54
9. Lonesome Road - 2:48
10. Diary Of An Old Man - 10:58
11. Plastic Mind - 4:25
12. Smile - 3:50
13. I Can't Live With Nobody But You - 3:41
14. The Youngest Day - 7:33
15. Bobo's Dream - 4:58
16. Bad Time - 3:19
Bonus Tracks 11-16

*Dirk Bogaert - Lead Vocals, Flute
*Gus Roan - Guitar
*Jacky Mauer - Drums
*Marc Malyster - Organ (Tracks 1-12)
*Jean-Paul Janssens - Bass (Tracks 1-12)
*Frank Wuyts - Organ (Tracks 13 To 16)
*Jean-Paul Musette - Bass (Tracks 13 To 16)
*John Van Rymenant - Saxophone (Tracks 13 To 16)

Free Text


  1. One of the rarest early progressive rock records came out in Belgium back in 1970. and was recorded by a band who called themselves Waterloo It was titled "First Battle" - Tracks 1 to 10 comprise original album released by Vogue Schallplatten in February, 1970. Original LP of their sole album, now sell for over $2,000/ 1200 euro on some auction sites.

    So it comes as no surprise someone reissued the set, on CD.. after many years by Musea ‎– FGBG 4281.AR in 1999. Due to the loss of the master-tapes, the album has been recorded directly from the original record. The sound has been tidied up in the Equus Studio, in Brussels, in January 1999.

    What is often the case in these types of situations though is that the actual music does live up to the hype surrounding it. Fortunately, this is not the case with Waterloo...To the original material, care has been several recordings of singles.
    Track 11 taken from 7" "Plastic Mind/Tumblin' Jack" released by Vogue Schallplatten cat# VB 151 in 1970.
    Tracks 12 & 13 taken from 7" "I Can't Live With Nobody But You/Smile" released by Vogue Schallplatten cat# VB 172 in March 1971.
    Track 14 - previously unreleased.
    Tracks 15 & 16 taken from 7" "Bad Time/Bobo's Dream" released by Vogue Schallplatten in 1972.

    Plate ''First Battle'' is an absolute must for lovers of progressive sounds of the early seventies. In addition,if do you like/you love Jethro Tull, I assume the a good whiskey that after listening to their only sole album Waterloo permanently will settle in your player. All thanks to the great parties of the flute, spiced Hammond organ perfect tandem and electric guitar. A great vocal by Dirk Bogaert and superb compositions do not have to remind .

    Jackie Moe suggested the name quintet WATERLOO officially founded the October 17, 1969. Initially, the musicians had lucky,good manager,at that time the distinguished Belgian band Wallace Collection, (Jean Martin).

    Jean Martin is committed to conducting the group. Manager demanded the implementation of the musicians more accessible to the public materials, and he partly succeeded in convincing them to do more than just music. Recording group singles sold well, which was stimulated by her frequent appearance on the radio.

  2. WATERLOO happiness again soon. Jean Martin is planning to organize a major international exhibition of rock known British and American artists, but at the last moment, when the majority of tickets have already been sold, the performance was canceled. Martin had no choice but to replace the "import of the stars," their charges Wallace Collection, and Jaques MODUS VIVENDIS Hustin. Caught in the company, and Waterloo. The event was "Hurrah" and two weeks later, the same group repeated the success at the same stage before an audience quite large. This was the first word WATERLOO, and they have been in the music press. The success of Martin added, the enthusiasm, and he invited her to collaborate with his former partner, David McKay (David McKay) - co-author of the popular hit Wallace Collection -. "Daydream"

    From 26 to 30 December 1969 the group worked in the studio ", made by 'Martin and McKay. Work went quickly and spores, largely thanks to keyboardist Mark Malisteru, classical training, which helped him to navigate and feel comfortable in unfamiliar situations. Their work was the album "First Battle", was released in February 1970 roku. Do album cover design, Martin organized a group photo session in the hall of the Museum of the Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon, and presents a portrait of a weapon during those years. Shortly after the release, the group held a press conference in Brussels, Belgium has repeatedly shown on television. However, despite such strong information support was pressed a few thousand copies of the album, which quickly sold in Belgium.

    This five-piece band had obviously been playing together for a while before the album was recorded. There are a variety of styles on display here, suggesting that the ten songs that make up "First Battle" were written over the course of a few years.
    “Meet Again,” the opening track. This organ-heavy slice of psychedelia feels like vintage 1968, and could have slotted in nicely on the Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. Waterloo then immediately dive into the bombastic territory of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” on the very next cut, “Why May I Not Know.”From there the band cruise into some of the more laid-back, flute-driven sounds of psych-folkies like the Incredible String Band, with “Tumblin’ Jack.” Diversity is definitely a quality this group embraced, and the rest of the record continues in this disparate vein.

    The original LP version of First Battle closed with the ten minute “Diary Of An Old Man,” which is a big departure. This is clearly the “love it or hate it,” song in their repertoire. It is a basic blues, with lengthy guitar, organ, and flute solos dominating...honey to my ears!

    The reissue of First Battle by the Spanish Guerssen label (who specialize in obscure prog),and French Musea label is filled out with six bonus tracks, all of which are highly recommended. My personal favorite is “The Youngest Day,” which is about as weirdly proggy as it gets. A close second is “Bobo’s Dream,” another wonderfully addled flight of fancy that could only have come out in the seventies...wonderful ,excellent very atmospheric, and at the same afterdamp music from the sign of Jethro Tull and Uriah Heep - all poured with slight psychedelic sauce... Lots tons Hammond organ (1,000 kg +) flute, great compositions.
    The whole album is an extremely high level. But what really distinguishes this disc from among hundreds of others in this style, it's incredible ability as a composer musicians, instrumental mastery and freedom to move around the different shades of rock music. Plates listens to in the in one breath the best-enabled "repeat all"

    Read more:

  3. Superb posting !!!

    Many thanks, Albert