Thursday, 11 March 2010

Karel Bogard & Co. - Blues From Over The Border

Blues From Over The Border1971
224+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from Barclay 90017

Since the last few posts featuring Mainstream MRL recordings were predominately of the blues persuasion, there's one more album of the genre to squeeze in before Soundological gets back in the swing of the jazz/funk/soul thing. To that end, this here write-up is a heapin' helpin' of what could best be described as a Belgian speculation sandwich. "WTF is that," you ask dear reader? Well, it's a tasty filet of trusted info on a musician from Belgium (block quotes segment below) nestled between two thick slices of whole-wheat hypothesizin' (pretty much the rest).

Bogard is sometimes referred to as Karel Bogaert, and the first tenuous thread connected to the latter name is that someone using that moniker authored a book called Blues Lexicon: Blues, Cajun, Boogie Woogie, Gospel that was published in 1971 by Antwerp publishing house Standaard Uitgeverij. The book remains a popular overview to this day of exactly the strains of music Bogard covers so well on the album and is even considered as canon by some European academics due to the thorough and comprehensive biographical data of hundreds of American folk musicians included therein. Currently it's cited as one of the main references on the Dutch Wikipedia entry for Blues.

The following info is from Belgian Pop & Rock Archives, translated from Dutch by Google and edited by yours truly:

In the late sixties Karel Bogard was proficient in various instruments, playing in Leuven (he sang, played guitar, piano, and even a hundred others) in various blues, skiffle and jugbands, like Free Sound Community en Crowin Rooster.

After graduation he went to Paris to study Chinese but while in the French capital, he kept himself busy in musical circles. Through contacts with Alexis Corner (Bogard was playing in his band at the time) and Memphis Slim he struck a deal with the French label Barclay. The LP "Blues from over the Border" appeared in France in 1971, including Roland van Campenhout and other guests.

In the mid-seventies in Ghent he started his own record label: Dwarf Records. Originally created solely to issue the Kandahar LP, Bogard he soon found a number of kindred souls so in a short time the label also included Banzaï, Tjens Couter and TC Matic from Arno.

"In the years '70-'75 Ghent was a hive of activity," he said in the book "Wit-lof from Belgium," and jazz musician Pol Van Gijseghem was involved in various projects. There emerged an interaction with many groups: Bunker, Quark, Red Mole .. etc.. Rock and jazz had found each other." Karel Bogard thus became one of the main figures of jazz-rock in Belgium (Hugo Spencer, 5th Ball Gang, Marc Moulin, Placebo, Sam Suffy). Bogard's main project in these years was Kandahar, with guitarist Jef De Visscher and Pol Van Gijseghem, who released two LP's in the blues/jazz/rock idiom.

Simultaneously, he also recorded solo (the LP "From Dusk until Dawn" in 1975) or combined forces with other companions as The Karel Bogard Blues Band in 1976 with "Still Hooked On The Blues" and as Karel Bogard's Highway Band in 1977 with "Step," featuring the single "Sweet Lady Society".

Dwarf went bankrupt, however, and was swallowed by E.M.I./ I.B.C. (with whom they already had a distribution deal). This marked the end of Kandahar and a bitter Bogard quit music, combining his studies in engineering and oriental languages to land a job with a dredging company in Singapore.
That's pretty much it for the meat and, from thereon, it's back to unfounded flights of fancy based on scant photographic evidence of a recent pic that belies a resemblance to the young Karel on the cover of this album. Unfortunately, the pic was in a corporate quarterly report and the PDF of said report has been misplaced or erased in the past few weeks. If it pops up again, the post will be updated with the side-by-side comparison of photos. Regardless, let us return to the specumilatin'...

When in Singapore, he likely worked for one of the two Belgian dredging companies doing business there, Dredging International or Baggerwerken Decloedt, which have since merged and now operate under the name Dredging, Environmental & Marine Engineering. In 1997 he was the President of the Belgian & Luxembourg Association of Singapore , a social club for expats and he seems to have returned to Europe at the turn of the century, serving on the board of directors from 2001-2007 for Dutch environmental product company PMV. Other than that, there is no reference to any further musical projects with the participation of Mr. Bagard/Bogaert.

Which is a shame really, since his obvious passion and talent for music seem to have borne the brunt of his distaste at "the biz" and an older, wiser, worldly Karel would likely bring the depth of his experience to his lyrics. Roughly in his 60s, these days he would probably more clearly exude the blues feeling beyond the note-perfect execution of its stylistic idioms. Although it was obvious Karel felt the blues on this recording, it doesn't necessary follow that the listener will feel his blues.

For a student of the African-American roots music techniques this document may be almost as valuable as original field recordings from the early part of the century (which Bogard had obviously pored over himself). For purists who demand their blues artists be directly from the delta (or at the very least Chicago), this will be anathema. For casual listeners who don't care much about the "who" or "when" or "what" when it comes to their blues, they'll likely enjoy the "how" displayed here by Bogard and his companions, mostly because Karel and companions so obviously enjoyed themselves while recording.

Blues From Across the Border
seems to have steadily increased in price until it maxed out in value in 2007 - Popsike gives eBay auction results of 45€ in 2003, 80€ in 2006 with prices ranging from 100€ to 200€ in 2007 on eBay and at various online record stores. Since then, it seems to have dropped with most pricing reverting back the 40€ to 80€ range. This rip is from the Canadian pressing of the LP, which in many places is mentioned as the only run Barclay printed. It was part of that big bulk purchase I made last summer so you could say I scored it for a buck which is definitely a bargain for this slice of folk-blues, even without considering the value to collectors.

Karel Bogard - Lead Vocal, Acoustic Guitar, Kazoo, Mandolin, Piano
Bottleneck Chris - Acoustic Guitar, National Slide Guitar, Vocals
Roland Van Campenhout - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Flute, Harmonica
Roger Mason - Accordion, Spoons, Triangle, Vocals
Derroll Adams - Banjo

1 Brownsferry Blues
2 Done Lived With The Blues
3 Morning Sun
4 Don't You Leave Me Alone
5 I.C. Blues
6 Crumble's Farm
7 Rollin' Blues
8 Me And The Devil
9 Bukka White Is Not Dead
10 Danny's Tune
11 See See Rider
12 Tennessee Rag
13 Crowley Two-step

Make a run for the border with Soundological HERE (updated 2013-04-04).

Solo Album Discography

1971 Blues from over the Border
[Barclay 90017] at Soundological

1975 From Dusk Until Dawn
[Dwarf 4C062-96844]

1976 Still Hooked On The Blues

1977 Step
[EMI/Dwarf 4B062-98105]

With Kandahar

1974 Long Live The Sliced Ham
[Sounds Superb 4M048-97401 / Dwarf LP1]

1975 In The Court Of Catherina Squeezer
[Dwarf 4C062-96846]


taro nombei said...

Looking forward to checking this out Cheeba.
Blues from Ghent — there's always so much more to hear and discover isn't there!
cheers from over here!

isabelbc said...

hi Cheeba,

Thanks a lot from ProgNotFrog

Isabel :o)

cheeba said...

@taro, hope you enjoy! Like you say, there's always sooo much to discover!

Hopefully I can catch up the in the next couple weeks while I have a bit of a breather in contract work... will have to stop by and make some discoveries at your blog too!

boogieman said...

Hi Cheeba, thanks for this rarity. The Blues Lexicon was one of the first - if not the first - books on blues I bought in the early seventies, even though it was in Dutch (i'm a "francophone"). It had a foreword by Alexis Korner and was invaluable for braoodening my knowledge and understanding of the blues. Saw Kandahar once or twice,
There was quite a bit of interesting music going on in Belgium at the time. I miss that period ....
Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

cheeba said...

@boogieman, it does sound like Belgium was a hotspot at that time. Mostly this opened up for me in the mid-90s when I discovered Placebo.

The last couple years of music blogging has really opened my ears to a lot of other groups of the time. When I saw this LP I didn't connect him to Kandahar until I looked up his bio. It was pretty clear then that the Belgian scene didn't just arrive out of nowhere, either.

I've heard The Blues Lexicon is a very impressive book. I know that when I ran a search on it, there were very few copies for sale in North America but many universities over here have it in their libraries.

boogieman said...

Hi Cheeba,

let's say that The Blues Lexicon was a good reference book in its time. But it won't stand comparison with all the scholarly books and studies that have been published ever since.
Anyway, I do like your blog a lot. Wish I had time to start my own but I 'm overseas most of the time while the old LPs remain safely in Brussels.

Anonymous said...

Thanx a lot!!!!!!!

MattyGroves said...

Thaks so much,friend!
Very,very wonderfull blog!!!