Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1974-76)
- Jos Bertrand -- drums, percussion
Herman Merken -- vocals
- Luk "Duk" Vanlessen -- guitars
Johan "Jen" Vanlessen -- bass
- Paul Cook -- congos, percussion
line up 2 (1976)
NEW - Ferre Baelen - bass
- Jos Bertrand -- drums, percussion
NEW - Johnny Moechaers -- vocals, guitar, violin
NEW - Stany Pacan -- guitar
- Paul Vrijens -- vocals, keyboards
line up 3 (1980)
Herman Merken -- vocals
NEW - Fa Vanham -- bass (replaced Jen Vanlessen)
NEW - Duk Vanlessen -- guitars
Jen Vanlessen -- drums, percussion (replaced Jos Bertrand)
- Jo Lemaire + Flouze (Fa Banham)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: A Quick Step
Country/State: Bilzen, Limburg Belgium
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: includes insert
Catalog ID: 6143
In the mid-1970s my father took a job working for NATO in Brussels, Belgium. In addition to the wonderful beer (yeah Stella Artois), thanks to my buddy Mark (thanks Mark), one of the coolest things I ran into were record libraries ... yeah, literally libraries that instead of loaning out books, circulated records. To join you paid a small fee, brought in your record player stylus so they could check it for quality (naturally the library didn't want you playing their albums with a nail), and if your stylus passed muster you could then check out a dozen LPs at a time for a nominal fee. I think the paperwork said you wouldn't make copies, but that was just the theory ... Anyhow, these record libraries had tens of thousands of albums and the choices ranged from top-10 stuff to amazingly obscure European releases ... Mind you, one of those obscurities was Womega's "A Quick Step" which caught my eye due to the Jos Vanlessen cover painting. So some thirty years later I stumbled across another copy of the album and snapped it up.
With the exception of what I read in the insert that came along with their album, I can't say I know a great deal about Womega. The band was apparently founded in 1974 by three brothers - Duk and Jos Vanlessen on guitar and Jen Vanlessen on bass. The members had previously played local bands like Scrub and Second Rate. As Womega they started playing local clubs, eventually gaining some press attention with an August,1974 appearance at the Bilzen Jazz Festival. By the time the band recorded their 1975 debut the lineup featured the Vanlessens, along with drummer Jos Bertrand, singer Herman Merken, horn/woodwind player Paul Peters and keyboardist Paul Vrijens. Released on their own Skruup label (love the name), the album was actually recorded in England with Johann Dubois and keyboardist Vrijens producing. Featuring all original material, musically the overall feel was that of a progressive-rock hybrid that strove to find a balance between experimentation and more commercial moves. Merken sang in heavily accented English (I suspect he may have been singing phonetically), but the overall results weren't unpleasant; certainly no worse than anything Golden Earring every did. The rest of the band were quite good, easily handling the materials occasionally complex structures with considerable ease. Keyboardist/synthesizer player Vrijens (who also wrote most of the material), had a subtle touch while guitarist Duk and Jos Vanlessen were particularly good, providing many of the album highlights (check out their solos on 'Christo Said').
Yeah. there isn't a great deal of originality here, but I liked it when I first heard it thirty years ago and I liked it even more when I stumbled across it again. Well worth looking for, though be forewarned it's hard to score and has a big ticket price.
Step" track listing:
1.) Nympho's Belly Button (Paul Peters - Paul Vrijens) - 5:12 rating: *** stars
'Nympho's Belly Button' seemed structured to provide all of the members an opportunity to showcase their talents. The song started out with some nice guitar and a tasty splash of synthesizers, before Merken's wobbly vocals kicked in and the song started to bounce all over the genre map including surprisingly commercial sections and some progressive moves. The lyrics even quoted George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Sleeps". To my ears the highlights came in the form of the Vanlessens' electric and acoustic guitar solos. With a little more focus and structure this could have been a great tune. Okay, I'll admit that I took delight in Paul Vrijens' synthesizer solo. It almost sounded like he was playing a whoopy cushion.
2.) Along Came You (Paul Vrijens) - 4:21 rating: **** stars
I guess I adapt quickly because by the time the stylus hit 'Along Came You' Merken's accented vocals no longer distracted me. The started off as more standard rock ballad exhibiting touches of David Gilmore's Pink Floyd styled guitar moved and Beatles-eaque harmony vocals. Unexpectedly, the track broke into a Latin percussion segment midsection. Once again the Vanlessens' provided some lovely guitar moves. Doesn't sound particularly impressive, but the end product was quite enjoyable.
3.) Christo Said (Paul Vrijens) - 4:51 rating: **** stars
I have no idea what the subject matter was about (perhaps French artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff - yeah I know he was actually born in Bulgaria), but 'Christo Said' started out as one of the album's most rock oriented tracks before shifting gears and showcasing the Vanlessens' first rate fret work. Coupled with Paul Vrijens' Mellotron, their guitar solos waded into pastoral Pink Floyd territory making for some of the album's most beautiful work.
Be warned, the video and sound quality is horrible, but YouTube has an extended clip of the band performing on Belgian television. On 'Christo Said' they looked and sounded lime the were lip-synching. The extended jam section and '(Sweet) Sleeping Sixteen' sounded to be live efforts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEOWwBJlC7Y
4.) (Sweet) Sleeping Sixteen (Paul Vrijens) - 5:37 rating: **** stars
Yeah, Paul Peters flute solo wasn't necessary (briefly giving the song kind of a Focus feel), but again once you got acclimated to Merken's somewhat shrill, double timed vocal, '(Sweet) Sleeping Sixteen' was one of the album's most pop flavored and catchy numbers.
One of two instrumentals, 'Bagatel' wasn't pop, progressive, or rock, rather opening up with some lovely, almost classical twin acoustic guitar has always reminded me of something Jan Akkerman would have killed to have composed. Simply stunning and needs to be heard on a good pair of speakers, or quality headphones.
2.) Heros Of Flames (Vanlessen Paul Peters - Paul Vrijens) - 3:51 rating: *** stars
Except for an odd mid-section segment that briefly shifted gears into acoustic guitar solo, 'Heros Of Flames' (their spelling) was the album's most conventional rocker. Quite good with a touch of Santana-styled lead guitar thrown in.
3.) Tearful Thoughts (Paul Peters - Paul Vrijens) - 6:57 rating: *** stars
Kicked along by Vrijens' see-saw keyboards, 'Tearful Thoughts' opened up with a slightly dark and ominous, mid-tempo song structure, but about halfway through jumped to a Focus-styled jazz-rock mode with way too much Peters flute.
4.) Tu Quoque (Vanlessen - Paul Vrijens) - Vanha, - 5:11 rating: **** stars
In terms of merging rock and progressive moves, 'Tu Quoque' (Latin for "you too"), stood as their most successful performance. A nice funky melody with interesting structural shifts, great electric guitar, and some surprisingly impressive top-40-styled harmony vocals made it well worth hearing.
5.) Felix the Dwarf (instrumental) (Paul Vrijens) - 1:22 rating: * star
Who knows were they got the title, but the final song 'Felix the Dwarf' wasn't even shown on the track listing. Musically it was a strange horn-powered instrumental, it sounded like a mix between a slice of polka and a toothpaste commercial. They probably should have left it off the album.
Following the LPs release the band split apart but drummer Bertrand and keyboardist Vrijens recruited a new line consisting of bassist Ferre Baelen, singer Johnny Moechaers and guitarist Stany Pacan. The revamped line-up released a non-LP single before calling it quits:
- 1976's 'Don't Work Yourself' b/w 'Doctor Make me Well' (EMI catalog number 4C 006-97909)
With a return to most of the original line-up (bassist Fa Vanham replacing Jen Vanlessen), Womega reunited in the early 1980's, releasing one more non-LP singles:
- 1980's 'Two Red Lights' b/w 'Emma' (Skruup catalog number 280 47 901)
They subsequently called it quits, but I think there have been a couple of reunions throughout the years. Love to know more about these guys.
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