Thursday, July 7, 2022

Doctor Downtrip - Doctor Downtrip (1973 belgium, splendid psych blues rock, 2008 remaster)

Formed in Brussels back in 1969, Doctor Downtrip were to debut with a single for the Vogue label. The outfit’s slightly “psychedelic” leanings (with regards to their use of saxophone on “gravitation” and flute on “music for your mind”), gained them quite some attention. Who exactly was in the band remains a mystery, although the Dutchman J. Van Wagensveld did compose both songs on this effort. In june 1970 they played the “Puzzle P-festival”(a famous Brussels club in the Rue De Bouchers) with many Belgian hardrock bands as well as headliner Wallace Collection. But the first highlight of their relatively brief career was their appearance at the Bilzen Rock & Jazz festival in august 1970 along such acts as Badfinger and Screaming Lord Sutch. Both festivals also had another Brussels band, Burning Plague on the bill. 

When by the end of 1970 Plague’s Michael Heslop (who was original from the USA) decided to put his band on hold, the announcement of his entry to Doctor Downtrip quickly followed. After a while this new line-up (John Hastry on bass, Michael Heslop on guitar, Paul Van De Velden on drums, Michel Rorive on vocals and Sylvain Paul on organ) was really rocking as proven on the “summer festival Den Haan “ and the fondly-remembered Jemelle festival on august 8th,1971 where they supported Golden Earring and Genesis.(In april 1972 they supported Genesis a second time when they played in Arlon). It took more than a year before the new five-piece had an impressive armoury of self-penned compositions at their disposal, and the first proof of it, came in 1972 when they released the single “take my place” backed with “depressed” on CBS records. Both songs showed the real potential of this hardrock band as their fine organ/guitar work was finally captured on vinyl. After healthy sales a second two-tracker was scheduled for release, but without haste, as it was already 1973 when “jumpin’ in the air / winter’s coming” saw the light of day. 

The “A” side was a radio-friendly rock song (along with sing-along and handclaps) but it was the backside who made impression with yet another heavy song with great solo’s. An appearance as support act for Mark Bolan’s T-REX (on march 24th ,1973) at the big vorst/forest national hall also made impression. Therefore it came as a surprise to hear the band was working on a full-lp with a new singer; Jean Paul Goossens (and Serge Paul on second guitar). This first lp (recorded with Jean Huysmans in five days!) was without any doubt a cracking way to make their mark on the Belgian scene, and capable numbers such as “free morning time”, ”lost city”, “wanted”(heavy!!!) and the uptempo “big blue train” all demonstrated an uncanny knack for creating great hardrock-music.1974 saw the release of another 7” with two reworked songs from that first album but after this, there was only silence from the Doctor’s camp. By the end of 1975 Doctor Downtrip had already undergone a few changes with Heslop & Paul leaving to be replaced by only a guitarplayer: Jose Cuisset who came from Lagger Blues Machine. But it wasn’t only the line-up who’s been changed, also the name was shortened to Downtrip. 

After that, the band managed to record their second lp and for the first time produced it themselves (all other recordings were produced by Jean Huysmans). “If You Don’t Rock Now” was released in 1976 on CBS/Epic. Excellent hard-rocking stuff throughout; highlights were “sweet lies” and the awesome “getting louder”. Although they were a regular attraction at nations rock clubs and festivals, from then on, they no longer seem to have been able to get invitations to play the bigger support slots. It took more than two years before another Downtrip album hit the shops, but “Downtown” was a fine third set. Especially the first side had storming numbers such as “scarecrow”, ”shout it out”, “dedicated to you” and the longer title song. Despite this album things started falling apart and by the end of the decade, the Downtrip members concluded that they were fighting a losing battle and had called it a day without making much of a fuss about it.
Doctor Downtrip
1. Nothin’s The Same / Free Morning Time - 5:55
2. Walking In The Desert (Michael Heslop) - 4:15
3. Wanted - 3:35
4. Lost City (Paul Goosens, Michael Heslop, Serge Paul) - 6:40
5. Anything Goes - 3:18
6. Better Run Away - 2:45
7. Everything Around - 3:53
8. Big Blue Train (Michael Heslop, Serge Paul) - 3:19
9. Feeling Good Again (Michael Heslop) - 5:14
All songs by Jean Paul Goosens, Serge Paul except where noted

Doctor Downtrip
*John Hastry - Bass
*Jean Paul Goosens - Vocals
*Paul Van Der Velden - Drums
*Michael Heslop - Guitar, Vocals
*Serge Paul - Guitar

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