I have been meaning to post this record for a loooong time – I found notes on it that go back a decade or so! I was certain by now someone else would have blogged it or put it on Youtube. But after a deep search, I see no signs of it. I guess this record really is pretty darn rare!
I'm extra excited to share it now – this is one of my favourite finds ever, and as much as I try not to get territorial about music, I adore this record so much and it so embodies what this blog is about that I must admit I love that it still gets to have its internet premiere here, despite sitting on it for so long. :)
The record in question is an early 1970s Belgian single by a young woman credited simply as Evelyn. I have known a single fact about her since I purchased it in 2007 – that she is the singer who appears on Sharif Dean's 1973 song, 'Do You Love Me?'. This knowledge led me to find out her full name: Evelyn D'Haese (sometimes spelled Evelyne or Eveline).
'Do You Love Me?' was a big hit in its native Belgium and a handful of other European countries, and seems to be fondly remembered, if the number of views it continues to rack up on Youtube tell a story. It's a strangely enjoyable duet, though perhaps an acquired taste and one that doesn't entirely translate outside a certain time and place. Evelyn's sweet, wafting vocal elevates it beyond what might otherwise be more typically cheesy, male crooner Europop.
A face you don't yet know ...
Her voice, however, will sound familiar to you.
And for good reason...
In the hit: "Do you love me", by Sharif Dean, it is her particularly catchy voice that gives reply.
Here she gives free rein to her immense talent in performing two of her compositions.
Evelyn's one solo single was released after this, according to the notes on the back of the sleeve. So that places it around late 1973 to 1974. It is what I can only describe as... Pure. Magic. For reference: it's not often I can say "if you love Clothilde, you'll love this" and for something to really live up to that, but this time it's true! Sixties chanteuse Clothilde, if you're unfamiliar, is beloved by vintage French pop fans for her unique brand of charming, innovative pop, helmed by the brilliant Germinal Ténas.
There are some key differences – Evelyn's songs have simpler arrangements and less studio wizardry than Clothilde's, lest my using her as a touchstone misleads you into thinking they are entirely similar. I just feel there's something of the same spirit here: supremely cute and ultra-feminine French voices singing almost ethereally light but bouncy pop, with a soft graze of psychedelia that makes the songs a little trippier than the usual vintage European femme fare. And as much as I think this is the closest I've come to discovering something anywhere near the particular brilliance of Clothilde's songs, Evelyn's record is also its own unique experience, with a set of sounds that are just so rare and special.
The two songs here, 'Musicien' and 'Les Martiens', are somewhat unexpected for the early 1970s. I originally thought this record must be from the 1960s – there's a playfulness and simplicity here that fades in the next decade, as music forks off in new directions, often either more ambitious and serious, or more polished and middle-of-the-road. A-side 'Musicien' is the more sedate affair here: delicately slow, with sensual-yet-sweet vocals, the use of echo effects making them a touch haunting. Backed by an acoustic, lightly psychedelic arrangement and bongo percussion, the overall effect is a bit like Clothilde or (sixties) Chantal Goya meets Brigitte Fontaine circa Comme à la radio.
On my favourite of the two songs, B-side 'Les Martiens', Evelyn sounds like an adorable being from outer space who has landed to gift us with unheard pop sounds. The song is upbeat, joyous, strange, cute, eerie, trippy, quirky, and a million other things all at once. Though it's this track in particular that brought to mind Clothilde as a reference point, I will again emphasise it is its own, one-of-a-kind experience. This song is just so out-of-the-stratosphere amazing to me, I don't want to try to describe it any further, as it is so much more than the sum of its parts. Just have a listen, and I bet you too will fall in love with it.
It's interesting to note that, unlike someone like Clothilde who was more of a muse to a (sometimes harsh) creative force, it seems Evelyn had more of a driving role in her own music. I say this with all due credit to Clothilde (and her kin), whose sweet voice and natural charisma undeniably made Ténas' songs so special – I just find it notable that this time, in Evelyn's case, the cute-voiced, pretty ingenue was also the songwriter.
There's not a great deal to be found online about Miss D'Haese, but a couple of leads I found paint an even more intriguing picture of her, and hint she perhaps had a bigger role in creating the unique sound of this record than even songwriting credits suggest. One could write the melody and lyrics to a song but not be responsible for its defining sound – that's often a whiz-bang producer (think: Phil Spector). I can't say for sure who was the visionary behind this vinyl magic, but the fact Evelyn was part of a countercultural, more experimental scene suggests she was at least partly responsible for bringing that spirit to this record.
Evelyn was in an experimental band called The Masked Ball of the Extraterrestrials, which was formed in 1972 with two fellow Belgian musicians, Christian Maerten and Luc Hensill. Hensill has a website (currently down, but archived here) which details some info on this completely obscure band. There is a mention that they had recording sessions, but I'm not sure if they ever released any records – I can't see any sign they did, so I would say not. Details on the band are scant, but it's not hard to imagine from the name they played some type of cosmic rock. It's mentioned they played a "happening" with the Soft Machine, so it's likely they were musical brethren. Interestingly, Hensill's page mentions The Masked Ball of the Extraterrestrials reformed briefly in 2009, with the original members.
Maerten's name is found in the credits of Evelyn's single, and the back sleeve tells us: "The musical arrangement was made by a team of musicians who put the best of themselves into it, and conducted in the studio by Nick Roland and Christian Maerten".
A little further Discogs exploration reveals Maerten and Evelyn also formed a duo called The Twilight Twins. They seem to have released one single: 'The Rhythm of the Music' backed with 'Trumpetman'. I'm grateful to find some Youtubers have shared these two rare tracks, also lovely and unusual in their own way. We are getting into more recognisably 70s folk rock here, albeit still with some uncommon touches, a free-spirited approach, and Evelyn's distinctive vocals again making this stand out.
Other contributors to Evelyn's single include bass player Nick Roland (a member of 70s British-Belgian band Octopus), mentioned on the sleeve as an arranger, and Igor Minarief, credited as co-songwriter on both tracks. Following Minarief's Discogs credits, I found he'd written some songs for another young Belgian woman, Crischa (real name Georgina Baert), including the excellent psych-prog stomper 'Paix sur terre' from 1972. His work for Crischa makes me think he may have brought some of the fun, post-yéyé spirit to 'Les Martiens'.
Evelyn's unusual record, it thus seems, is the result of a number of talented, deeply creative musicians, each with their own ideas and strengths, all coming together at the right time. Each deserves credit for co-crafting these two enchanting songs. Yet it's The Twilight Twins' songs that occupy the most common ground with Evelyn's solo work, suggesting it's the collaboration between Evelyn and Chris Maerten that is key to the end result. And without doubt, it's Evelyn herself who is central to the magic that was created here.
Digging into Evelyn's musical journey – at least the part I could find a trail of – was rewarding, and sometimes surprising. It speaks volumes to me that Evelyn ran with an experimental musical crowd, rather than simply settling for being a studio vocalist for mainstream pop acts. I suspect the former is where her heart lay, and why there's that special quality to this single. Whatever the story behind this record, it is truly one of the best hidden vinyl discoveries I've ever come across. And while I've cherished it as my own little secret find all these years, I'm now happy for it to reach your ears. I hope you love it as much as I do ❤.