Oswald Moris – one of the driving forces behind the ‘Mensch, erger je niet’ nights as well as one half of the Brokers podcast series – is a Brussels-based, Leuven-born music obsessive that counts guest slots on Studio Brussel and Bruzz as well as stage time at Pukkelpop. A digger in the purest of form, he took some time to unearth 16 of his favourite Belgian cuts for us right before the next Brokers night this Friday in Leuven with none other than our very own Nicholas Lewis on deck duties. Expect a journey into the lesser-known fringes of Belgian jazz, funk, fusion, disco and rock together with a few crunchy insider anecdotes added to the mix for good measure.
01. Bolyvie – SUNHOUSE (Sunhouse – 1977 – JW’s Records)
Let’s start off with one of the smoothest jazz-rock tunes from my collection. There’s not much I know about Sunhouse, but I can say that the outstanding cello-work on this track comes from the hands of Denis Van Hecke. A Brussels-based musician (he sadly passed away in 2012) who contributed his talents to the likes of Aksak Maboul, Cos and Wallace Collection. Make sure you check his collaboration with Jess & James – A Man’s Symphony is another true beauty!
02. Vas-Y-Voir – BRUSSELS ART QUINTET (7” Single – 1969 – Sigma)
This single (a self-published release of only 500 copies) can be seen as a pivotal moment in the Belgian jazz-scene, since it is the first recording of the masterminds who went on founding the experimental jazz-rock band Cos. To put some of their influence in perspective: Robert Pernet (drums) had such a vast jazz-collection, covering the entire history of Belgian jazz, that the King Baudouin Foundation currently owns it. Another important name affiliated with this recording is Marcel ‘Babs’ Robert, whose near-mythical Babs Robert & The Love Planet LP is one of the most sought after deep-jazz cuts to ever came out of Europe.
03. Jesus Thinks of Me – THOMAS-PELZER LIMITED (TPL – 1974 – Vogel)
When we talk about jazz in Belgium, we can’t ignore the importance of the scene surrounding the city of Luik (Liège). René Thomas played with most of the international stars from those days and Jacques Pelzer (nephew of Steve Houben, best known in Belgium for his work with daughter Micheline on their Open Sky Unit outfit) was one of the first to bring bebop to Europe. Pelzer, as a close friend to Chet Baker, toured all over the globe but always returned home to work in his pharmacy that today is home to a small museum and jazz-club.
04. Chiaroscuro – DOUGLAS LUCAS (Chiaroscuro – 1977 – RKM)
Although Lucas never owned a Belgian passport, the rest of the over-talented Belgian musicians on this album more than make up for that. Recorded in Brussels’ legendary Morgan Studio, with omnipresent engineer Alan Ward at the controls, this beauty found it’s way to the public via ubiquitous Roland Kluger’s RKM label. Maybe Ca Plane Pour Moi rings a bell, one of RKM’s biggest hits. Funny side-note: the notorious English version of that number one punk-single was sung by that same Alan ‘Pierre’ Ward, released under his Elton Motello moniker. Belgium is a small country, after all…
05. Brain Storm – FRIENDSHIP (Handle With Care – 1979 – Arpeges Records)
This one found its way into my collection through Luik’s well-known local Carnaby Records store. Little is known about the artists on this record, except for drummer Yves Baibay. He later joined forces with Dirk Blanchart, Elisa Waut and Adamo. The late 70’s sound needs some getting used to, but the disco influences makes this rare jazz-funk LP a real banger. Only 299 copies were released, so you’ll need some luck to catch one.
06. Got To Go On – TRANSFUSION (Jazz Hoeilaart ’80 – 1980 – Rainbow)
For years, Jazz Hoeilaart was instrumental in the development of young jazz talents through their annual competition. Transfusion was one of those bands, and it paid off. Eric Geirnaert & Andre Appeldoorn ended up playing with Zjef Vanuytsel. Eric Rits recorded with Stef Bos and I came across pianist Rene Jonckheer on the back of the Erfenis LP by Jack Sels (more on Sels, later on). Only multi-instrumentalist Paul Van Laere already had some history: he started of with his brothers in 60’s R&R-band The Picknicks, but later on he changed course and played with loads of Flemish success-stories like The Dinky Toys and Isabella A. Got To Go On was written by bass-player & composer Evert Verhees. His track-record is impressively versatile to say the least, just to name a few: Banzaï (prog-rock) & Disco Dog (Wanna Break Your Bones). From the eighties on he has worked with, or written for, almost everybody in the Flemish music-spectrum. Check his site if you don’t believe me!
07. Waking Up At Sunset – BOB PORTER (Meeting You – 1978 – B. Sharp Music)
Composer Robert Louis CL. Van Peborgh played keyboard, flute & percussion with the Belgian Radio and Television (BRT) Jazz Orchestra. For his magum opus, he collected 16 of the best musicians he could find. Bands like Placebo, Plus, Solis Lacus, Hein Huysmans Sextet, … you name it, they played it! It was out of the frustration of some of those artists (Bruno Castellucci and Kevin Muligan), together with the know-how of Evert Verhees (him again) and Roland Lecleir, that the B. Sharp label was created. One of their first release was this big band jazz-rock LP by Bob ‘Peborgh’ Porter, recorded in the Morgan Studio by Alan Ward (him again). Thank you, frustration!
08. Bay’s Way – JACK SELS (Jack Sels – 1978 – International Bestseller Company)
Jack Sels was a legendary sax-player born in Antwerp. Most fans will refer to his jazz recordings, but take the time to check out his early R&R stuff (starting with Sam & The Saxtones and the song Kaput). The life of Sels reads as a tragedy, so in 1993 a movie was made about it – Just Friends, with Jack played by Josse De Pauw. Notable about this specific record is that it’s the first ever recording of Philippe Catherine, at the age of 17. Legend has it that he sneaked out of school to play with these guys. Also worthy of your time is the Audiofiles podcast on Mixcloud about organ-mystery Lou Bennett who plays on this album. They spend a good hour talking with Catherine about these very recordings and the life of Bennett: ‘the tap-dancer behind the basses’.
09. Snoopy – PETER LOLAND (7” Single – 1969 – ABC Records)
My very first exposure to Belpop must have been my mom’s copy of a Raymond van het Groenewoud compilation. I rocked that vinyl front to back until it broke! So no big surprise when I discovered his dad’s work and seemed to love it as well. A born Dutchmen, Joseph van het Groenewoud fled his country to get out of serving the army. Once in Belgium he took the pseudonym Nico Ooms, hence his most famous stage-name Nico Gomez. He is best known for his Latin infused arrangements, but this little one-off single under his Loland moniker is quiet the treasure as well! Fun fact: Raymond used the Loland moniker as well: R. Loland. And it’s this very name that gets the credits for Gomez’ most collected tune: Ritual. Maybe his son showed us some early skills, maybe it’s just a publishing-scam. Who knows?
10. Set Me Free – FREE ACTION (7” Single – 1975 – Pims)
Every Belgian record collector knows our local music history is filled with strong and surprising B-sides. That little bit of extra studio time where musicians were cut loose of the record-label’s urge to write a hit-single and did what they did best: play. This song is only one of many great examples. Apart from the producers and writers, I don’t know anything about Free Action. So those who are in the know, hook me up!
11. There’s No Place For Lonely People – ADAM’S RECITAL – (7” Single – 1967 – Barclay)
Adam Hoptman was a Polish Jew who, after his studies at the conservatory, travelled to Antwerp for a job in the diamond industry. But the only gem he really discovered was Ann Christy, who sang in his first band The Adams. He also accompanied Lilianne St. Pierre with this formation and had some success in the Netherlands and Germany, where they called him “the Belgian Jimi Hendrix”. Later on he went to Australia to become a successful producer and composer (see: The Little River Band). Drummer Jack Mauer later went on playing with Abraxis and Waterloo (search for Waterloo’s debut-LP First Battle; a collectors dream!) and ventured out into the new beat-scene, working with the likes of Renaat ‘R&S’ Vandepapeliere (see: Code 61 and their hit Drop The Deal).
12. Exorcist – LOS CONQUISTADORES (7” Single – Unknown – Cannon Records)
The producer behind this crazy freak-funk track is probably the most exotic person in Belgian music history. Sylveer ‘Sylvain’ Van Holmen started out with The Seabirds, known for the very first Belgian protest song Protest-Rock. After that he hit it big with Sylvester’s Team, before he started Wallace Collection (known all over the world for their over-sampled take on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake: Daydream). After this mega-success, he got to know that other eccentric “Belpop-do-it-all,” Lou Depryck. They joined forces and literally went worldwide with Two Man Sound; samba-pastiches that earned them millions. After that he started working as a producer for The Kids and Jo Lemaire. But real funk-diggers know him best for the sought-after Lord Funk by Superfunk. Sylvain, the man did it all!
13. Indian Priest – INJUN JOE (7” Single – 1969- Reward Records)
Ronald Antoon Sigo and Jos Clauwers, both known for their work as The Jokers, wrote this scary psych-trip. But once arrived in ’69 the guys left their Shadows-like guitars in the closet and took a psychedelic turn. Two other great versions of this track exist to my knowledge: one by Seafruit and one by The Haunters, both worth the Google-command. Clauwers already found his way into this list, by the way. He was the technician for the TPL album, so the guy knows his music. Small line from the lyrics to get you onboard: “I like maidens blood, a bit of children’s meat. I’ll take it cool or hot, this food I badly need.” The summer of love was officially over!
14. Trip To Paradise – JENGHIZ KHAN (Well Cut – 1970 – Barclay)
The line-up behind this band pretty much reads like a history lesson in Belgian rock. François ‘Friswa’ George was part of The Partisans (a band who even accompanied Gene Vincent), Wallace Collection and lent his guitar to Two Man Sound. Pierre ‘Rapsat’ Raepsaet was part of The Tenderfoot Kids and made an amazing psychedelic folk record with the band Laurelie. Tim ‘Brean’ Turcksin played for The Pebbles and last (but not least) is the creator of the band Piero Kenroll. He was a well-respected music journalist who knew everybody around Brussels, and beyond. He brought the other guys together and wrote the lyrics for the album. This album is right-on-the-money from start to finish, get your hands on a copy!
15. Love Is Always – DEE-DEE (7” Single – 1967 – Palette)
Willy Albimoor was an genius pianist and composer who played an important role in the rise of artists such as Will Tura & Johan Verminnen (to name just two). He played together with all the great local jazz cats and filled the rest of his time by arranging monster-hits such as Jungle Fever by the Chakachas. Palette, a label run by the Kluger family (them again), wanted Albimoor to write a song for Andrée ‘Bébé Hong-Suong’ Giroud, a Vietnamese-Belgian singer who had a hit with Rio De Janeiro in 1955. For the lyrics the people at Palette contacted the Essex firm, who had a writer in their stall who was willing to work on anything as long as his upcoming debut-album wasn’t released. That man was David Jones, who later changed his stage-name to David Bowie. Legend has it that Bowie sung and recorded a demo-version of these songs. So let’s go out and dig!
16. Tu Reviens Quand? – DOUGLAS (7” Single – 1968 – Disc’Az / CBS)
Douglas, known to his parents as Jean-Pierre Lauwers, started out as part of Les Dollars. But Jean Kluger saw some potential (read: money) in a solo-carrier. Not many records were made, but those that did end up coming out still stir up some descent cash. High-flyer is the B-side Si Je Buvais Moins. Be warned, this little nugget, with Lenjard ‘Leo Caerts’ Karz on orchestral duty, will cost you half a month’s earnings.