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Music Review: Waterloo – First Battle

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One of the rarest early progressive rock records came out in Belgium back in 1970. It was titled First Battle and was recorded by a band who called themselves Waterloo. Original copies of their one and only album now sell for over $2,000 on some auction sites. So it comes as no surprise that someone has reissued the set on CD all these years later. What is often the case in these types of situations though is that the actual music does not live up to the hype surrounding it.

Fortunately, this is not the case with Waterloo. 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.

Take “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.

The reissue of First Battle by the Spanish Guerssen label (who specialize in obscure prog), 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.

Fans of the aforementioned bands, plus contemporaries such as Jethro Tull, Uriah Heep, and Genesis should enjoy Waterloo. And with the CD reissue, you'll save yourself a couple grand as well.

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