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. THE BISHOPS – Cross Cuts (Ace/Chiswick CDWIKM 256, June 2005)
3. HADDA BROOKS – Femme Fatale (Ace CDCHM 1129, Nov 2006)
4. THE CHAMPS – Go, Champs, Go! (Ace CDCHM 1126, Sep 2006)
5. THE DAMNED – Machine Gun Etiquette (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 027, July 2007)
6. THE ESCALATORS [ex Meteors] – Moving Staircases (Ace CDHP 017, Dec 2006)
7. THE EVERLY BROTHERS – The Everly Brothers (Ace CDCHM 1127, Sep 2006)
8. FUNKADELIC – Maggot Brain (Ace/Westbound CDHP 030, Aug 2007)
9. CHUCK HIGGINS – Pachucko Hop (Ace CDHP 024, April 2007)
10. B. B. KING – The Jungle (Ace/Kent CDHP 031, Nov 2007)
11. JOHNNY MOPED – Cycledelic (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 029, Oct 2007)
12. JACKIE LEE – The Duck (Ace/Kent CDHP 032, Dec 2010)
13. LONNIE MACK – The Wham Of That Memphis Man! (Ace CDCHM 1134, Nov 2006)
14. MOTORHEAD – Motorhead [1977 Debut LP] (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 021, Oct 2007)
15. THE OLYMPICS – Something Old, Something New (Ace/Kent CDHP 018, Dec 2006)
16. THE RADIO STARS – Songs For Swinging Lovers (Ace/Chiswick CDWIKM 5, June 2006)
17. THE SONICS – Here Are The Sonics! (Ace/Big Beat CDHP 022, Feb 2007)
18. THE SONICS – The Sonics Boom (Ace/Big Beat CDHP 023, April 2007)
19. ROOSEVELT SYKES [aka 'The Honeydripper'] – Sings The Blues (Ace CDCHM 1132, Nov 2006)
20. VARIOUS – For Dancers Only [Kent's 1st Reissue LP compilation] (Ace/Kent CDHP 019, Feb 2007)
21. VARIOUS – For Dancers Also [Kent's 2nd Reissue LP compilation] (Ace/Kent CDHP 020, April 2007)
22. VARIOUS – Hollywood Rock 'n' Roll [80ts Rockabilly compilation] (Ace CDHP 026, July 2007)
23. VARIOUS – Fool's Gold [70ts Punk compilation] (Ace/Chiswick CDHP 028, August 2007)
24. LINK WRAY – Early Recordings (Ace/Chiswick CDCHM 6, June 2006
25. THE ZOMBIES – Odyssey And Oracle (Ace/Big Beat CDHP 025, June 2007)

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc