One of the few '60s Belgian rock groups of note, the Blackbirds were among the most curious of the numerous sullen bands to emerge from the low countries (principally Holland) during that era. Their arrangements were in some respects rooted in the organ-dominated combos of the British Invasion/beat music era, following the mold of the Animals or, more arcanely, the moody Dutch group Les Baroques. The choked, slightly psychedelic texture of the organ had a more cathedral-like feel than the ones employed by the Animals or Les Baroques, though, looking forward in some ways to the approach characteristic of psychedelic and progressive rock. Lyrically the Blackbirds were odd birds, delivering brooding and morose sentiments in a groping and occasionally half-sardonic, half-cheery fashion, indicating perhaps that their grasp of the actual meaning of the English words they sang was less than perfect. Melodically they also seemed indebted to the church, as their tunes and harmonies had a pious, almost hymnal tone. British Invasion and R&B influences can still be detected on their 1968 debut album, though on their second and final effort (from 1971), they were moving in a more avowedly prog rock direction with greater emphasis on pseudo-classical arrangements and extended instrumental sections. As of the late '90s, these guys were still unknown even in hardcore '60s/psychedelic/progressive collector's circles; they're a cult group waiting to happen. ~ Richie Unterberger
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