Considering the number of hip-hop artists who have sampled Hammond-heavy Mohawks jam The Champ
- which famously provided the head-nodding hook for Maestro's Let Your Backbone Slide and about a hundred other well-known tracks - it's a bit surprising that the Mohawks album of the same name originally released on Pama in 1968 hasn't been legitimately reissued over the past four decades. That could have something to do with the business practices of Pama label co-founder Harry Palmer, who gets composer credit on The Champ even though the one-off studio project was the brainchild of prolific sound library great Alan Hawkshaw, who is said to have knocked out the entire album of funky Booker T & the MGs-style instrumentals in a matter of hours.
In any case, it's great to have this sample-rich moddish mover back in circulation on disc thanks to Vampi Soul, which has added six bonus tracks, including non-cheesy extended versions of The Champ and Landscape. There's a double-vinyl version out, too.
Senior Thump (The Mohawks)
Seeing Switzerland's delightfully quirky Heidi Happy (not her real name) at Lula Lounge October 15 singing her heart out for seven people, two of whom weren't even listening, I was reasonably confident that her new Flowers, Birds And Home (Little Jig) disc would be a winner.
I'm pleased to report that the elaborately orchestrated (flute, violin, viola, cello, vibes, Fender Rhodes and, yes, glockenspiel) versions of the songs of love, loss and regret she performed solo with her trusty digital delay unit are even more elegant, powerful and moving than I anticipated. I half-expected Flowers, Birds And Home to be a charming Feistian frolic; it turned out to be a uniquely enchanting pop epic, a perfect balance of whimsy and Weltschmerz. The album's closer O-o-oh
sounds like a hit to me. MySpace.com/Heidihappy.
Spring (Heidi Happy)
Although Lee Hazlewood recorded some of the best stuff for Reprise in the 60s, Warner hasn't exactly been zealous about capitalizing on its vault holdings. In fact, it's doubtful anyone there today appreciates Hazlewood's significant and enduring contributions to popular music.
Fortunately, the folks at Rhino have a better handle on Hazlewood and the reissue game and have assembled a fine two-disc retrospective of the singer/songwriter and producer's Reprise work for their Handmade subsidiary, called Strung Out On Something New.
In addition to all the tracks from the solo albums The N.S.V.I.P.'s, Friday's Child and Love And Other Crimes, there's also a fascinating assortment of songs he wrote, arranged and/or produced for artists like Sanford Clark, Duane Eddy, the Ill Winds and Dino, Desi & Billy, along with informative notes and session credits. It's limited to 5,000 copies and only available at Rhinohandmade.com.
That Old Freight Train (Lee Hazlewood)