I used to see this record when I was out and about in Soho. In the late 1990s, early 2000s. Digging in my lunch-hour. The LP`s cover, of the Boston-born-and-raised, Batteau Brothers – David and Robin – mimicking dolphins in the light blue serene, fixing itself in my photographic memory, A gift that unfortunately only seems to work for album sleeves, record labels, and the pages of music biographies. I tried applying it to my “profession”. But I guess music always fascinated me more than science. Batteaux would sit in a rack in Selectadisc, on Berwick Street. Pressed tightly against copies of Funkadelic`s Maggot Brain, The Headhunters` Survival Of The Fittest, and Miles` On The Corner. Eugene McDaniels. The Oneness Of Ju Ju. James Brown. That`s the kind of company Batteaux kept in those eclectic days. When Gilles Peterson would open his Kiss FM show with Vangelis` Let It Happen, and Patrick Forge would think nothing of slotting Nick Drake`s Poor Boy into a set. In hindsight, these classics were all likely boots. But I was green back then, and didn’t care about such things. I just wanted to listen to – to know – everything.
I didn`t come to learn of the beauty locked within Batteaux` grooves until I moved to Japan. Yozo at Koenji`s EAD Record had put Life`s Worth Loving on a mix, and upon enquiry he sold me a copy. An original, of course. Yozo being one of the friendliest guys you could hope to meet, and during my stay in Tokyo, my unofficial language coach and city guide. Lender of umbrellas. Supplier of hot tea. As well as the purveyor of “cult” sounds.
Bateaux was released in 1973. Post-Altamont. Post-the hippy bubble bursting. Yet it still sings a lot about love, peace, and what a better place the world would be if we all just got naked.
“Take off your clothes and feel the air, Mother Nature running bare.”
Henry Lewy was the engineer. His CV at that point included Easy-Listening el supremos, The Sandpipers, Brazilian breakthrough Sergio Mendes, the American Cosmic of Gram Parsons` Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and ladies of Laurel Canyon, Judee Sil and Joni Mitchell. Lewy had worked on Mitchell`s 1971 masterpiece, Blue, and went on to complete another twelve LPs with the legendary singer / songwriter. Going some way towards explaining Batteaux` greatness.
There are ballads here – one of them Country-tinged – but the people flicking though those Selectadisc racks were doing so for the Funky Folk numbers. Acoustic guitars, kalimba, cuica, and campfire choruses of applause and whistling.
“Watch out mama, here I come. Crazing dancing in the sun.”
The Caribbean lilt of Cat Stevens. Or Bob Dylan`s Mozambique. A shooting star. A last hurrah. Invitations to the beach accompanied by cello and violin arrangements that could have been lifted from Bryter Layter.
Blue-eyed Free Soul to rival Alzo & Uldine.
As far as standards and benchmarks are concerned, Yozo`s pick, Living`s Worth Loving, is up there with Odyssey`s essential Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love.
Pre-orders are up over at the Be With Records site.