A notoriously jaw-dropping folk-funk classic, long treasured by the Balearic fraternity, the self-titled LP from the brothers Batteau nevertheless remains a criminally underheard gem. Appealing to fans stuck on Ned Doheny’s scorching blue-eyed soul as well as Gene Clark’s rich country-rock, it’s an honour to present the first officially licensed vinyl reissue of this undoubted masterpiece of proto-Yacht-Rock.
Like a forgotten piece of baroque folk caught in 1973, Batteaux’s eponymous album somehow sounds magically timeless. A full 45 years after the fact, it remains a mystery as to why they weren’t better known. The lush production and virtuoso playing conforms with the ruling aesthetic of the time – well-crafted, melodic songs performed with precision and balance – whilst the shimmering AOR atmosphere and sun-dappled vocal washes align neatly with the best Crosby, Stills & Nash records.
Throughout, the beautifully penned tracks hold traces of Jimmie Spheeris, America and Seals & Crofts. The immaculately orchestrated percussion and additional instrumentation (electric piano and fiddle to name a few) are performed by perennially celebrated West-Coast cats including Tom Scott, John Guerin and Andy Newmark.
It’s no surprise that the heavenly “High Tide” is such a Balearic touchstone. A free soul aqua-space groover, its sophisticated rhythms predict the swing of CSN’s canonical “Dark Star” by a full four years. An alternative measure of its enduring magnificence can be gauged by MF Doom sampling Paul Horn’s wonderful version, subsequently used by Ghostface Killah.
The highlights are many and memorable. Gorgeous opener “Tell Her She’s Lovely” is the perfect example of the addictive, melody-driven songwriting which really should have earned them stardom. Moody ballad “Living’s Worth Loving” is nothing short of heartbreaking whilst the chugging elegance of “Wake Me In The Morning” showcases their bewitching harmonies. The hypnotic yearning of “Lady Of The Lake” is an exquisitely string-drenched, piano-laced favourite that achieves a peculiar strutting-funk. It’s that good.
This lovingly curated reissue enables a long overdue reappraisal of the hitherto buried genius of Batteaux. The serene aqua artwork which adorned the original jacket – their father worked on a dolphin-human communication project in Hawaii, hence the infamous design – and sumptuous inner sleeve have been faithfully restored. Whilst, with access to the original tapes, Simon Francis’ sensitive mastering elevates the sound throughout and, as ever, it has been pressed at a reassuringly weighty 180g.