Saturday, 28 May 2016

"The Clovers" by THE CLOVERS (2012 Japan 'Atlantic 1000 R&B Best Collection' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Lovey Dovey All The Time..."

THE CLOVERS rare self-titled debut LP from 1956 on Atlantic Records (re-issued in 1957) is a bit of a R 'n' B and Vocal group barnstormer. And although it didn't contain the immortal drinking-creates-babies song "One Mint Julep" – its cracking 14 tracks represented a sort of 'Best Of' in all but name (US singles that sold huge numbers between 1950 and 1956 on the American R&B charts).

A little about the Reissue Series first though - using the generic title 'Atlantic 1000 Best R&B Collection' - these 'limited release' CD reissues out of Warner Brothers Japan were released steadily between October 2012 and February 2014. It the end it reached an amazing 250+ different releases (see my online blog for a full list and catalogue numbers). Some (you may have noticed) have even been re-pressed in Europe and sold with the Japanese Obi strips behind the shrinkwrap at less than a fiver (using the same Barcodes).

For the Japanese-Pressed issues the '1000' in the title refers to their price code. Each features a budget price tag of 952 Yen which (depending on exchange rates) is roughly $9 to $11 for US customers, £5.50 to £7.50 for UK buyers and 8 to 9.20 Euros for Europeans (with P&P added on of course). Roughly speaking they weigh in at about £10 sterling per title INCLUDING post - which is the cheapest I've seen quality Japanese-pressed CDs ever go for.

And what's really enticing is that all issues feature 2012 and 2013 Digital Remastering (DSD) with many titles reissued that were long out of print (and due sonic upgrades) – or new to CD entirely. They come in standard jewel cases (NOT mini repro sleeves – nor SHMs) with an inner booklet containing the lyrics and description etc and an outer Obi strip. The CD label design will usually mimic the original release too – in this case the black 'Atlantic' Records logo with its 'Long Playing Unbreakable' promise beneath.

This 7 November 2012 Japan-only reissue of "The Clovers" by THE CLOVERS on Atlantic/Rhino/Warner Music WPCR-27567 (Barcode 4943674126668) is a straightforward CD transfer of the rare American LP (37:45 minutes). The 12-page booklet features Japanese-language liner notes - lyrics in English and a very clear repro of the LP's rear sleeve liner notes by Jack Walker. The Obi has 'Digital Remastering' on it – other than that It doesn't say who or what. Having said that - the Audio is fantastic - there's a great depth of sound off these Japanese issues - although I'd say in a heartbeat that the 9 tracks across Bear Family's fabulous "Street Corner Symphonies" CD Series (stretching from 1950 to 1959) sound better - especially in the notorious "Don't You Know I Love You" track that seems to have distortion on every version. The Bear issue is the cleanest I've ever heard it - here it's decidedly sub-par.

Side 1:
1. Love, Love, Love (May 1956 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-1094, A)
2. Lovey Dovey (March 1954 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-1022, A)
3. Yes, It's You (March 1953 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-989, B-side of "Crawlin'")
4. Ting-A-Ling (July 1952 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-969, A)
5. I Played The Fool (October 1952 USA 7" single 45-977, A)
6. Hey Miss Fanny (October 1952 USA 7" single 45-977, B-side of "I Played The Fool")
7. Don't You Know I Love You (March 1951 USA 7" single 45-934, A - their 1st Atlantic 45)

Side 2:
8. Middle Of The Night (March 1952 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-963, B-side of "One Mint Julep")
9. Blue Velvet (April 1955 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-1052, A)
10. Little Mama (March 1954 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-1022, A)
11. Crawlin' (March 1953 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-989, A)
12. Here Goes A Fool (June 1953 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-1000, B-side of "Good Lovin'")
13. I Got My Eyes On You (July 1954 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-1035, A)
14. Devil Or Angel (January 1956 USA 7" single on Atlantic 45-1083, A)
Tracks 1 to 14 are their debut LP "The Clovers" (aka "Rock & Roll") - released 1956 in the USA on Atlantic 1248, re-issued in 1957 on Atlantic 8009 (both in Mono). The 1957 Artwork and Label are used for this CD.

As you can see from the list above - every track was a single - what the 14 entries don't tell you is the amazing track record they had on the R&B charts. Between the years this LP covers (1950 and 1956) - they clocked up three No. 1's - "Don't You Know I Love You", "Fool, Fool, Fool" and "Ting-A-Ling" - four No. 3's - "Middle Of The Night", "I Played The Fool", "Crawlin'" and "Devil Or Angel" with the remainder Top 5 or Top 10 at worst. Along with Joe Turner, Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker - THE CLOVERS were a huge star attraction for Atlantic Records - and that's what makes this LP so damn good - it's chock full of hits and their equally cool flip-sides.

You could argue I suppose that you just buy "The Platinum Collection" 22-track CD for less than five quid (remastered also - see separate review) - but I'd argue there's something about these Japanese issues that both sounds and looks the part. 

And that's all the Rock 'n' Roll enticement I need...

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

"In Dreams" by ROY ORBISON (2006 Monument/Legacy 'Extended' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...I'm Going Back One Day To Blue Bayou..."

Having established his vocal credentials with his December 1960 debut LP "Roy Orbison Sings Lonely And Blue" (a legendary Audiophile creation especially in Stereo) followed by sucker-punch number two – April 1962's "Crying" – the 'Big O' continued in that vein with a third classic platter of lusty growls and dignified pleading – August 1963's "In Dreams".

Re-listening to it in 2016 on this fab little CD and you’re struck by the awesome Audio, the sheer classiness of the songwriting and his battle weary persona – a strangely warm and accessible thing that seemed to straddle that thin line between young love's emotional highs vs. bottomless heartbreak and still come out smelling of roses. And like its two CD predecessors - this tasty Sony/Legacy 'Extended Edition' CD Reissue/Remaster does that old 60ts long player a solid by adding on four cleverly chosen bonus tracks actually worthy of the moniker (singles in and around the LP). Here are the dreamlike details...

USA released August 2006 (October 2006 in the UK and Europe) – "In Dreams" by ROY ORBISON on Monument/Legacy/Sony BMG 82876 85573 2 (Barcode 828768557327) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (41:47 minutes):

1. In Dreams
2. Lonely Wine
3. Shahdarabo
4. No One Will Ever Know
5. Sunset
6. House Without Windows
7. Dream [Side 2]
8. Blue Bayou
9. (They Call You) Gigolette
10. All I Have To Do Is Dream
11. Beautiful Dreamer
12. My Prayer
Tracks 1 to 12 are his third album "In Dreams" - released August 1963 in the USA on Monument MLP 8003 (Mono) and Monument SLP 18003 (Stereo) and November 1963 in the UK on London HA-U 8180 (Mono) and London SH-U 8180 (Stereo). Produced by FRED FOSTER – the STEREO Mix is used for the CD.

BONUS TRACKS:
13. Falling
14. Distant Drums
Tracks 13 and 14 are the non-album A&B-sides of a 7” single released May 1963 in the USA on Monument MO 815 and in the UK on London HL-U 9727. It peaked at No. 22 and No. 9 in the US and UK singles charts respectively. "Distant Drums" was also used as the B-side to "Let The Good Times Roll" in the USA on Monument 906 in October 1965 (peaked at No. 81).

15. Mean Woman Blues
Track 15 is the non-album 7” single Double-A with "Blue Bayou" released August 1963 in the USA on Monument 45-824 (written by Claude DeMetrius) and September 1963 in the UK on London HL-U 9777. It peaked at No. 3 in the UK and twice in the USA, first at No. 5 as the lead song in September 1963 and then at No. 29 as the B-side of "Blue Bayou" in October 1963.

16. Pretty Paper
Track 16 is a non-album 7” single A-side (written by Willie Nelson) released December 1963 in the USA on Monument 45-830 and November 1964 in the UK on London HLU 9930 with "Summersong" on the B-side.

MUSICIANS:
GUITARS – Harold Bradley, Hank Garland, Fred Carter Jr., Ray Edenton, Jerry Kennedy, Scotty Moore, Wayne Moss and Joe Tanner
TRUMPET – Carl Garvin and Cam Mullins
SAXOPHONE – Boots Randolph
HARMONICA – Charlie McCoy
PIANO – Floyd Cramer and Bill Pursell
BASS – Bob Moore
DRUMS – John Greubel and Buddy Harman
VIOLA - Howard Carpenter
CELLO – Bryan Bach
VIOLINS – Brenton banks, George Binkley III, Aileen Fentress, Solie Fott, Lillian Hunt, Jane Norris, Vernal Richardson, Wilda Tinsley and Dorothy Walker
BACKING VOCALS – Joe Melson and The Anita Kerr Singers

Although it has three sepia-tinted Roy photos (smiling at camera) – apart from the repro of Boudleaux Bryant's liner notes – there is naught else by way of history or discussion (more's the pity). The booklet is pretty to look at admittedly but such a shame that Sony and compiler GREG GELLER didn't stretch out a tad with the info (he deserved more). There's a fourth sepia photo of Roy beneath the see-through CD tray.

But all of that is naught to the truly beautiful CD Audio you get the second you start playing the expertly crafted songs. VIC ANESINI did the Remasters at Sony Studios in New York – and he's a name I've sung the praises of before. Anesini has handled very prestigious SONY catalogue – Elvis Presley, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, Nilsson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carole King, Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Santana, Paul Simon, Mountain, Lou Reed and The Jayhawks to name but a few. Clean – full of presence and warmth – this thing is a joy to listen too. And even if the strings and Anita Kerr Singers do tend to over dramatise some of the songs – Orbison's voice is a thing of wonder throughout. It's also one of those reissues that become vastly enhanced by the addition of four smartly chosen and apt bonus tracks - the two sides of the shuffling single "Falling" (with "Distant Drums" on the flip) and the fantastic 'shapely hips' dancer "Mean Woman Blues" double A-sided with the beautiful "Blue Bayou". When he does that 'grrrrr' growl in "Mean Woman Blues" it always raises a grin...

Like the "...Only The Lonely" LP – this album opens with a mighty epic – "In Dreams". Our hero only has to "...close my eyes and drift away..." and he's with his squeeze in some beach setting where the cruelty of reality is no more. The audio on this mini masterpiece is (if you'll forgive the pun) – monumental – and all the more impressive to see that like much of the album the song is penned by Roy with his songwriting buddy of choice – Joe Melson. Roy Wells wrote the lovely ballad "Lonely Wine" - a very classy affair with gorgeous Production values. The desert rhythms of the 'Nile' song "Shahdaroba" is probably a bit naff by today's reckoning but the rat-a-tat-tat marching beats of "No One Will Ever Know" is superb - another melodrama builder supplied by the great Tennessee songwriter Fred Rose. Another hidden nugget is the Side 1 finisher "House Without Windows" where the Big O has moved into a windowless home so he never has to see his heart's desire pass by (bit radical Roy).

Side 2 opens with a beauty - Roy's cover of the Johnny Mercer classic "Dream" strummed on a Spanish Guitar before that familiar drum shuffle kicks in (the audio is beautiful on this track). Linda Ronstadt knew the sheer songwriting class that filled every second of "Blue Bayou" when she covered it for her 1977 album "Simple Dreams" - her 7" single version peaking at a huge No. 3 in October 1977 on the US Pop charts. Roy's version features a very cool Charlie McDaniels Harmonica solo. Other highlights on the side include a cover of The Everly Brothers classic "All I Have To Do Is Dream" and Stephen Foster's ancient but gorgeous and haunting ballad "Beautiful Dreamer" (check out Raul Malo of The Mavericks who did a version of it for the "Songs Of Stephen Foster 1826-1864" CD project in 2004). The Extras really pump up an already great album - four winners in exactly the same vein as the album cuts - all forlorn singing ("Falling") and saucy 'grrrrrrs' ("Mean Woman Blues"). In fact of the three Sony/Legacy 'Expanded Edition' CDs – I'd have to say that "In Dreams" is probably my favourite (I've reviewed the other two also).

Done in conjunction with the Roy Orbison estate – this is a sweetheart of a release and one that boasts exceptional Audio too (classy like the great man himself).

"...I feel so bad...I've got a worried mind...looking forward to happier times..." - Roy sang on "Blue Bayou". Happier times are right here...

Monday, 23 May 2016

"The Eddie Cochran Memorial Album" by EDDIE COCHRAN (Inside The 2009 Bear Family 'Somethin' Else: Ultimate Collection' Box Set Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"...You're Sure Fine Lookin'..." 

It's astonishing to think that when Ray Edward Cochran was taken from us in a freak car accident while on tour in England in April 1960 (Sunday the 17th on his way to London’s Heathrow) - he was only 6 months into his 21st year and had already clocked up over 200 recordings. Yet when it comes to CD – the fabulous Cochran is usually represented by a single disc ‘Best Of’ – few thinking to track down his LP legacy.

Well I’d argue that its time to go back to basics and hear his 2nd platter (posthumously) called "The Eddie Cochran Memorial Album" as a stand-alone. Despite its morbid title and artwork that wasn’t nearly as pretty as his July 1958 debut LP "Singin' To My Baby" - I'd argue it's a truly fantastic Rock 'n' Roll album that contains huge hits like "C'mon Everybody", "Three Steps To Heaven", "Summertime Blues" and "Somethin' Else" as well as other lesser-heard goodies like the rockin' "Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie".

You can get the album on this cheap-as-chips Hallmark CD - or do what I did - fork out big time. I found the tracks inside "Somethin' Else: The Ultimate Collection" by EDDIE COCHRAN – a mammoth Box Set typical of my favourite German reissue company’s legendary excellence. Released February 2009 on Bear Family BCD 15989 HK (Barcode 4000127159892) – “Somethin’ Else” gives punters best-audio 8CDs housed in label-themed 2-disc jewel cases inside a 12” x 12" Box Set offering up a huge 262 tracks. There's a beautifully illustrated album-sized 194-Page Hardback Book that is a truly a thing of beauty (yes ‘hardback’!). The set was compiled and prepared across several years by noted experts ANTOON VAN OLDEREN and Bear Family label boss RICHARD WEIZE. But this kind of quality and high-art finish doesn't come cheap - there's little change out of one hundred & fifty pounds - even online. A team consisting of 'BOPPIN' BOB JONES, JAY RANELUCCI, SAM SZCZEPANSKI (for Ivywood Productions) and PETER J. REYNOLDS handled the transfers and remasters. And being Bear Family - the sound quality is gorgeous - first generation tapes used - meticulous transfers - a superb job done. Here’s how to locate the album within the Box Set (3/6 = Disc 3, Track 6 and so on):

Side 1:
1. C'mon Everybody [3/6]
2. Three Steps To Heaven (Version 2) [3/32]
3. Cut Across Shorty (Speeded Up Version) [3/33]
4. Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie [2/26]
5. Pocketful Of Hearts [2/24]
6. Hallelujah, I Love Her So [3/26]
7. Don't Ever Let Me Go [3/5]

Side 2:
1. Summertime Blues [4/1]
2. Teresa [2/28]
3. Somethin' Else [3/17]
4. Pretty Girl [2/25]
5. Teenage Heaven [3/8]
6. Boll Weevil Song [3/18]
7. I Remember [3/9]
His 14-Track 2nd UK LP “The Eddie Cochran Memorial Album” was released in MONO on London HA-G 2267 in September 1960.




It was to be called "12 Of His Greatest Hits" and released just before the accident - but fate stepped in. Withdrawn and given the new moniker - Cochran's official 2nd LP opens on a stunner – "C'mon Everybody". Even now it gives me a thrill when he sings "...when you hear the music you just can't sit still...if you're brother won't rock...then your sister will..." This was young music and kids new that handsome Eddie was their kind of guy. Every bar band has cut their teeth on "Three Steps To Heaven" (not sure if they found the girl they love in Step 1 though). Marijohn Wilkin and Wayne Walker penned the witty rabbit and hare song "Cut Across Shorty" which Rod Stewart covered on his 2nd album "Gasoline Alley" in 1970. Next up is my fave-rave "Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie" - a fabulous Rock 'n' Roll rave up. There's a superb Rockstar Records reissue LP from may 1985 called "Portrait Of A Legend" that featured 10 STEREO tracks for the first time - one of which is a STEREO 'overdub with guitar' take of this stunning rocker - it turns up as Track 7 on Disc 5. Fred Dexter's "Pocketful Of Hearts" is a tad sappy but his cover of Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love Her So" lifts proceedings considerably. Dale Fitzsimmons provided "Don't Ever Let Me Go" - a very Buddy Holly influenced shuffling ballad.

Side 2 opens on another winner and teenage rebellion anthem – the 'too young to vote' song "Summertime Blues". It sounds great here - big acoustic guitar and those hand claps. Things get decidedly schlocky with "Teresa" - a 'cuter than a rosebud' crooner tune complete with awful girly vocals (best avoided). It's annihilated by the real deal - the 'sure fine looking' rumble of "Somethin' Else". What a tune and given full reign with the big remaster (a co-write with Sharon Sheeley). Cochran and songwriter Jerry Capehart pumped out the next three rockers - "Teenage Heaven" (featuring in the movie "Go, Johnny, Go!" in 1959 and was a hit single for Eddie on Liberty F-55177), "Boll Weevil Song" and the final ballad - the lovely and criminally forgotten "I Remember". It leaves you feeling that the whole album is one of the greats - albeit an overlooked one.

Issue No. 17,522 of The Daily Mail (Monday, 18 April 1960) headlined that 'Rock Star Dies In Crash' - picturing a smiling Cochran and the mangled British Taxi that took his life and injured Gene Vincent and Eddie's girl and songwriter Sharon Sheeley. Sad, sad, sad - better to remember him with this superb Rock 'n' Roll album...

"Something Old, Something New" by THE OLYMPICS (2006 Ace/Kent 'Hip Pocket' 5" Card CD Repro and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...Earth Breaking...Back Shaking...Do The Philly Dog..."

The fifth album by Californian Vocal Group THE OLYMPICS on Mirwood Records went largely unnoticed in the winter of 1966 despite being a killer mixture of Soul Dancers and Motownesque interpretations of their own Vocal Group/R&B Oldies. Their debut 45 "Western Movies" in August 1958 on Demon 1508 (a No. 8 Pop smash) and the June 1963 minor charting of "The Bounce" at No. 40 (Tri Disc 106) along with four whole albums (three on Arvee Records and one on Tri Disc Records) was long since past. But perhaps that 'Vocal Group' tag simply wouldn't shake off and explains why such a good Soul album saw so little chart action despite Mirwood releasing six singles across 1966 and 1967 to support the LP.

It has of course garnished the interest of collectors subsequently when they hear its superb string of club killers. The fabulous dancer "Baby, Do The Philly Dog" released October 1966 on Mirwood 5523 has subsequently become something of a Northern Soul monster - and Jon Savage included "Secret Agents" from the album on his October 2015 double-CD thesis "1966: The Year The Decade Exploded" – another cool talcum powder shaker. The three guys on the cover are WALTER WARD, EDDIE LEWIS and MACK STARR. Original band member Charles Fizer had been killed during a race riot in August 1965 aged only 25. "Something Old, Something New" does what it says on the tin – it’s a mixture of old hits like "Hully Gully" and "The Bounce" re-recorded for the 1966 marketplace. The whole damn thing is good too - and I'm not the only one to think so (apart from Ace). KGFJ Radio Disc Jockey JIM RANDOLPH wants the 'happening listener' to 'groove on' in his excitable liner notes on the rear cover – and frankly who are we to go dim on Jim. Here are the Western Movies baby...

UK and Europe released December 2006 - "Something Old, Something New" by THE OLYMPICS on Ace/Kent CDHP 018 (Barcode 029667025126) is a straightforward reissue of their 1966 LP onto CD. This Remaster is part of Ace's 'Hip Pocket Series' of CD Reissues (see list below) and plays outs as follows (28:13 minutes)

1. Western Movies
2. Hully Gully
3. Big Boy Pete
4. Shimmy Like Kate
5. Dance By The Light Of The Moon
6. The Bounce
7. Mine Exclusively [Side 2]
8. Baby, Do The Philly Dog
9. The Duck
10. Secret Agents
11. We Go Together, Pretty Baby
12. I'll Do A Little Bit More
Tracks 1 to 12 are their fifth album "Something Old, Something New" - released December 1966 in the USA on Mirwood MW 7003 (Mono) and Mirwood MWS-7003 (Stereo) – the STEREO mix is used for the CD.

The 5" card sleeve repros the original and rare American Mirwood Records LP with some basic (boxed) reissue notes on the rear sleeve. There's also an inner sleeve (unusual for these 'Hip Pocket' reissues which shows the Stereo Label of Mirwood MWS 7003). It looks and feels nice. NICK ROBBINS – a long time Audio Engineer associated with Ace, Edsel and Esoteric - did the remastering. Ace always use the real tapes and the Audio here is fabulous – full of that Sixties atmosphere – the instruments and production kept so sweet. The CD label lists tracks and writer credits and it's mid-price - so available for less than six quid in most places.

The whole 'Hip Pocket' series is designed to ape those 4" multi-track mini records (played at 33 1/3) put out in the USA between 1967 and 1969 as a way for fans to get the music in a 'handy and portable' way (they issued about 60 titles). As you can see from the list below – most of these albums are either obscurities - or overlooked classics Ace feel you should pay attention to. Genres stretch from 50ts Jazz (Chuck Higgins) to Blues Piano and Vocals (Roosevelt Sykes and Hadda Brooks) to 70ts Metal (Motorhead) to Punk (Radio Stars) and 60ts Garage & Psych (Sonics and Zombies) and beyond...

They give it the gunshot beginning too on the remake of 1958's "Western Movies" - a cool mid-tempo beginning (not quite as good as the original some might say but close). We get almost New Orleans R&B with "(Baby Hully Gully)" - another well-recorded driving remake that feels very 'now'. Someone sings a deep 'yeah' throughout the catchy "Big Boy Pete" while "Shimmy Like Kate" feels like 'Voo it, Voo it' R&B shimmy-shaker. The upbeat and be-stringed "Dance By The Light Of The Moon" is a first slip-up - a cheesy version with a vocal you can barely make out. Better is the Ray Charles pumping piano of "The Bounce" - a great dancer that Mirwood put out as an A-side (Mirwood 5525) with "The Duck" on the flip-side. Amazing it didn't chart.

If you jump immediately to Side 2 and play "Mine Exclusively", "Baby, Do The Philly Dog" and "The Duck" in a row - you'd think you'd stumbled on a great Soulful Motown album - handclaps - driving drums - girly backing vocals complimenting that guttural lead vocal. "Secret Agents" name-checks some of the day's obsessions - spies, agents, the FBI and Walter Cronkite - and is another Motownesque driver (it was the B-side to "Mine Exclusively" on Mirwood 5513). You'd swear H-D-H was conducting Marvin Gaye for "Baby Don't You Do It" as you listen to the relentless dance groove of the fab "We Go Together (Pretty Baby)". Mirwood thought it such a winner that they used it for the first 45 from the LP (Mirwood 5504) with the superb "Secret Agents" on the flip - what a winner - but again no chart action. It ends on another dancefloor pacer - "I'll Do A Little Bit More" - a tune where the singer worries about a 'muscle bound man holding your hand in the back seat of a car' so he's going to have to up his game and do a little bit more...

A fabulous little Soul/Dancer album then and a very cool CD reissue.
"...Gotta have it! Got to have your love!" - The Olympics declare on "I'll Do A Little Bit More". Got to have it - I agree...

Titles in the Ace Records Mid-Price 'Hip Pocket' CD Series are:

1. DONALD AUSTIN – Crazy Legs (Ace/Westbound CDHP 016, Dec 2006)
2. HADDA BROOKS – Femme Fatale (Ace CDCHM 1129, Nov 2006)
3. THE CHAMPS – Go, Champs, Go! (Ace CDCHM 1126, Sep 2006)
4. THE DAMNED – Machine Gun Etiquette (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 027, July 2007)
5. THE ESCALATORS [ex Meteors] – Moving Staircases (Ace CDHP 017, Dec 2006)
6. THE EVERLY BROTHERS – The Everly Brothers (Ace CDCHM 1127, Sep 2006)
7. FUNKADELIC – Maggot Brain (Ace/Westbound CDHP 030, Aug 2007)
8. CHUCK HIGGINS – Pachucko Hop (Ace CDHP 024, April 2007)
9. B. B. KING – The Jungle (Ace/Kent CDHP 031, Nov 2007)
10. JOHNNY MOPED – Cycledelic (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 029, Oct 2007)
11. JACKIE LEE – The Duck (Ace/Kent CDHP 032, Dec 2010)
12. LONNIE MACK – The Wham Of That Memphis Man! (Ace CDCHM 1134, Nov 2006)
13. MOTORHEAD – Motorhead [1977 Debut LP] (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 021, Oct 2007)
14. THE OLYMPICS – Something Old, Something New (Ace/Kent CDHP 018, Dec 2006)
15. THE RADIO STARS – Songs For Swinging Lovers (Ace/Chiswick CDWIKM 5, June 2006)
16. THE SONICS – Here Are The Sonics! (Ace/Big Beat CDHP 022, Feb 2007)
17. THE SONICS – The Sonics Boom (Ace/Big Beat CDHP 023, April 2007)
18. ROOSEVELT SYKES [aka 'The Honeydripper'] – Sings The Blues (Ace CDCHM 1132, Nov 2006)
19. VARIOUS – For Dancers Only [Kent's 1st Reissue LP compilation] (Ace/Kent CDHP 019, Feb 2007)
20. VARIOUS – For Dancers Also [Kent's 2nd Reissue LP compilation] (Ace/Kent CDHP 020, April 2007)
21. VARIOUS – Hollywood Rock 'n' Roll [80ts Rockabilly compilation] (Ace CDHP 026, July 2007)
22. VARIOUS – Fool's Gold [70ts Punk compilation] (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 028, August 2007)
23. LINK WRAY – Early Recordings (Ace/Chiswick CDCHM 6, June 2006)
24. THE ZOMBIES – Odyssey And Oracle (Ace/Big Beat CDHP 025, June 2007)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

"Go, Champs, Go!" By THE CHAMPS (2006 Ace 'Hip Pocket' 5" Card CD Repro & Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"...New Sounds In Music Have No Limit!" 

Forever labelled as a 'one hit wonder' – Los Angeles Tex Mex instrumental group The Champs scored huge with the utterly infectious "Tequila" – a monster No. 1 hit on both the Pop and R&B charts in March 1958 (Challenge Records 1016). Their follow up was an unlikely cover of a 1939 Bing Crosby hit called "El Roncho Rock" (Track 2 on Side 1) - but it stalled at No. 30 in June 1958. And apart from a few other minor chart-flourishes ("Too Much Tequila" in February 1960 and "Limbo Rock" in July 1962 which made 30 and 40 respectively) – they faded into musical history.

And that's where this wickedly good repro reissue steps in – those hip chaps over at Ace Records of the UK clearly feeling that The Champs' debut album from June 1958 warrants your attention again. And I'd agree - because almost 60 years after the event – it's still bops like a goodun and feels amazingly fresh. Here are the motorvatin' details...

UK and Europe released September 2006 - "Go, Champs, Go!" by THE CHAMPS on Ace Records CDCHM 1126 (Barcode 029667021722) is a straightforward reissue of their 1958 debut LP onto CD. This Remaster is part of Ace's 'Hip Pocket Series' of CD Reissues (see list below) and plays outs as follows (27:23 minutes)

1. Go Champ Go
2. El Rancho Rock
3. I’ll Be There
4. Sky High
5. What's Up, Buttercup?
6. Lollipop
7. Tequila [Side 2]
8. Train To Nowhere
9. Midnighter
10. Robot Walk
11. Just Walking In The Rain
12. Night Beat
Tracks 1 to 12 are their debut album "Go, Champs, Go!" - released June 1958 in the USA on Challenge CHL 601 and March 1959 in the UK on London HA-H 2152 (Mono only). It didn't chart in either country.

The 5" card sleeve repros the original and rare American Challenge Records LP with some basic (boxed) reissue notes on the rear sleeve (the album is a listed rarity at $250.00 – with the famous 'Blue' vinyl variant clocking in a whopping $2,500). And dig that artwork – what a joy – I want one of those red velvet suits. Although it doesn’t say who did the mastering (probably Nick Robbins or Duncan Cowell) – Ace always use real tapes and the Audio here is fabulous – full of that Fifties atmosphere – the instruments and production kept so sweet. The CD label lists tracks and writer credits - the rear sleeve has the original Irwin Zucker liner notes (which typical of the time tell you nothing about the music or the group members) but there is no inner-sleeve or any assessment of the album (which is a shame). It's mid-price too - so available for less than six quid in most places.

The whole 'Hip Pocket' series is designed to ape those 4" multi-track mini records (played at 33 1/3) put out in the USA between 1967 and 1969 as a way for fans to get the music in a 'handy and portable' way (they issued about 60 titles). As you can see from the list below – most of these albums are either obscurities - or overlooked classics Ace feel you should pay attention to. Genres stretch from 50ts Jazz (Chuck Higgins) to Blues Piano and Vocals (Roosevelt Sykes and Hadda Brooks) to 70ts Metal (Motorhead) to Punk (Radio Stars) and 60ts Garage & Psych (Sonics and Zombies) and beyond...

The band was CHUCK RIO on Saxophone, BUDDY BRUCE and DAVE BURGESS on Lead and Rhythm Guitar, CLIFF HILL on Bass and GENE ALDEN on Drums. It's pretty obvious to me that the fantastic bopper "Go Champ Go" should have been 45 number two because it's just a brill piece of dancing Rock 'n' Roll - all Saxophone fills, piano rolls and the boys occasionally chanting "Go, Champ, Go!" with a sense of teenage excitement. It's easy to hear why the rather tame "El Rancho Rock" didn't have the same impact as its predecessor "Tequila" - it's really good but not 'huge' like the cha-cha drinks song was (Rio's saxophone is so clear). We get a ballad next from the pen of Rhythm Guitar player Dave Burgess - the almost easy listening "I'll Be There" - but far better is the chipper Mexican-rhythms of "Sky High" where the boys even try to sound like Mariachis as they chant the chorus "...aye...aye...sky high!" Dave Burgess penned the cool "What's Up, Buttercup" - a kind of Coasters shuffle where the rhythm stops while someone gives it his best girly voice as he shouts "What's Up! Buttercup!" Side 1 ends on a fairly faithful Saxophone cover of The Chordettes hit "Lollipop" - a No. 2 hit in March 1958 - tearing up the US Pop charts as they were recording it.

Side 2 opens with the album's defining moment - the fabulous "Tequila" written by Saxophone maestro Chuck Rio. What a winner and guaranteed floor filler - the whole band sounding so tight and hip with the Latin beat. Duane Eddy and Link Wray devotees will go straight for the cool guitar-lead Rock 'n' Roll of "Train To Nowhere" - a Dave Burgess creation that threatens to start a fight at any moment or at least razor the local cinema seats (fab stuff and worth the price of admission alone). Continuing on that bopper tip - Burgess stumps up two LP faves - a fantastic instrumental rocker called "Midnighter" that is all churning guitars, driving rhythms on piano and drums and that ever-present funky Sax as well the jerky "Robot Walk". Unfortunately their too faithful cover of Johnnie Ray's 1956 weepy ballad "Just Walking In The Rain" is hardly the stuff of instrumental Rockabilly bliss - but it ends well on "Night Beat" - another cool composition from Kay Thompson who provided the wonderful "Go Champ Go" that opened proceedings.

A fabulous little album then and a very cool CD reissue (the only one to my knowledge). Don your shades, hop on your motorcycle and ride baby ride...

Titles in Ace Records Mid-Price ‘Hip Pocket’ CD Series are:

1. DONALD AUSTIN – Crazy Legs (Ace/Westbound CDHP 016, Dec 2006)
2. HADDA BROOKS – Femme Fatale (Ace CDCHM 1129, Nov 2006)
3. THE CHAMPS – Go, Champs, Go! (Ace CDCHM 1126, Sep 2006)
4. THE DAMNED – Machine Gun Etiquette (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 027, July 2007)
5. THE ESCALTORS [ex Meteors] – Moving Staircases (Ace CDHP 017, Dec 2006)
6. THE EVERLY BROTHERS – The Everly Brothers (Ace CDCHM 1127, Sep 2006)
7. FUNKADELIC – Maggot Brain (Ace/Westbound CDHP 030, Aug 2007)
8. CHUCK HIGGINS – Pachucko Hop (Ace CDHP 024, April 2007)
9. B. B. KING – The Jungle (Ace/Kent CDHP 031, Nov 2007)
10. JOHNNY MOPED – Cycledelic (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 029, Oct 2007)
11. JACKIE LEE – The Duck (Ace/Kent CDHP 032, Dec 2010)
12. LONNIE MACK – The Wham Of That Memphis Man! (Ace CDCHM 1134, Nov 2006)
13. MOTORHEAD – Motorhead [1977 Debut LP] (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 021, Oct 2007)
14. THE OLYMPICS – Something Old, Something New (Ace/Kent CDHP 018, Dec 2006)
15. THE RADIO STARS – Songs For Swinging Lovers (Ace/Chiswick CDWIKM 5, June 2006)
16. THE SONICS – Here Are The Sonics! (Ace/Big Beat CDHP 022, Feb 2007)
17. THE SONICS – The Sonics Boom (Ace/Big Beat CDHP 023, April 2007)
18. ROOSEVELT SYKES [aka ‘The Honeydripper’] – Sings The Blues (Ace CDCHM 1132, Nov 2006)
19. VARIOUS – For Dancers Only [Kent’s 1st Reissue LP compilation] (Ace/Kent CDHP 019, Feb 2007)
20. VARIOUS – For Dancers Also [Kent’s 2nd Reissue LP compilation] (Ace/Kent CDHP 020, April 2007)
21. VARIOUS – Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Roll [80ts Rockabilly compilation] (Ace CDHP 026, July 2007)
22. VARIOUS – Fool’s Gold [70ts Punk compilation] (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 028, August 2007)
23. LINK WRAY – Early Recordings (Ace/Chiswick CDCHM 6, June 2006)
24. THE ZOMBIES – Odyssey And Oracle (Ace/Big Beat CDHP 025, June 2007)

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