Johnny Hammond: Fantasy
Juno Records

Long-time DJ favourite “Fantasy” gets treated to a deluxe resurrection at the hands of Faze Action and Marc Mac. Number six in a ten-part series designed to celebrate Juno's tenth anniversary, Johnny Hammond's sparkling original appeared on the Gears album by the then-little-known soul jazz organist but the breezy cut has aged miraculously well since its 1975 coming-out, due in no small part to the ravishing arrangement Larry Mizell created for Hammond's small jazz-funk orchestra.

The Juno release presents five treatments by Faze Action and two by Marc Mac before finishing up with Hammond 's lush original. The steamy groove of Faze Action's opening “Special Disco Edit” blazes beautifully, especially when augmented with trippy echo treatments, vocal interjections, funky rhythm guitar accents, and, naturally, Hammond 's organ flourishes. Though the inclusion of Roger Glenn's flute playing doesn't surprise, the presence of a swinging violin solo (by Michael White) does. The “Tape Edit” and “Beats” versions spotlight the fabulous drumming technique Harvey Mason brought to the session; on dates like this one, studio MVPs like Bernard Purdie and Mason regularly served up simultaneously tight yet swinging grooves that are an absolute joy to hear, and Mason's “Fantasy” contribution is no different.

If there's a downside to the release, it's the obvious one: the repetition that can't help but set in when eight variations—no matter how different they might be—constitute a single release. That problem's mitigated somewhat in this case by Marc Mac who doesn't remix the original but instead literally recreates it. He smartly lets the funky drum pattern open “The Visioneers Version” all by itself before fleshing out the song with strings, vocals, and synths, and the joyous vibe cultivated by this treatment and the more groove-centric “Beat Drop Version” do justice to the original. Not surprisingly, Hammond's own version is so seductive, it only magnifies a craving for the still-available (on CD) Gears.

September 2008