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SONS OF CHAMPLIN albums / top albums

SONS OF CHAMPLIN Loosen Up Naturally album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Loosen Up Naturally
RnB 1968
SONS OF CHAMPLIN The Sons album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Sons
RnB 1969
SONS OF CHAMPLIN Follow Your Heart album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Follow Your Heart
RnB 1971
SONS OF CHAMPLIN Welcome to the Dance album cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
Welcome to the Dance
Jazz Related Rock 1973
SONS OF CHAMPLIN Hip Li'l Dreams album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Hip Li'l Dreams
RnB 2002


SONS OF CHAMPLIN live albums

SONS OF CHAMPLIN Sons of Champlin-Live album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Sons of Champlin-Live
RnB 1998

SONS OF CHAMPLIN demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

SONS OF CHAMPLIN re-issues & compilations

SONS OF CHAMPLIN The Best Of album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of
RnB 2006

SONS OF CHAMPLIN singles (0)

SONS OF CHAMPLIN movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)


SONS OF CHAMPLIN Welcome to the Dance

Album · 1973 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
True story: Early ’78. My band is cutting demos at Sunswept Studio in L.A. Our producer wants piano on some of the tracks. The engineer makes a call. An hour later in walks none other than Bill Champlin. I’m star struck. Me: “Mr. Champlin, back in Dallas your former group was hot stuff.” He: (skeptically) “Oh, really?” Me: “No joke. Every musician I knew had a copy of ‘Welcome to the Dance.’” He: “I wish they’d bought more.”

I relate that brief encounter (he’s an affable guy and consummate pro) not to impress the reader but to point out why the “Sons of Champlin” never became a household name. They were a musician’s band. While that indicates a respectful level of proficiency on their part, it also means that the majority of their songs went flying over the head of John Q. Public like a space shuttle. Plus, if starving musicians make up the bulk of your record-buying demographic then spectacular sales figures are not in the cards. They, simply put, were too creative, too adventurous and too talented to allow crass commerciality to infiltrate their art. Their one-of-a-kind northern California-bred blend of jazz, rock, R&B and funk left the average human on the street critically indifferent but to those of us whose whole world was music it was an aural delicacy that we could unashamedly sink our teeth into. Their earlier albums were quirky, eccentric projects but when they signed with Columbia Records that move must’ve inspired them to top everything they’d done before because “Welcome to the Dance” doesn’t just equal the lofty standards they’d set for themselves, it exceeds them. This is their masterpiece.

They open with the hot strikes of “Lightnin’” and that ain’t thunder you’re hearing, it’s the rumble of Champlin and multi-faceted Geoffrey Palmer’s saxophones blowing boldly over the tune’s infectious, rocking R&B groove. Their tight, punchy harmony lines accentuate the uplifting words that Bill sings convincingly, “when your soul feels heavy/overburdened by your daily thing/take time to live/take time to love/take time to give/then you will see/ the lightnin’ in your soul...” This exciting number possesses a prominent spirit of elation rarely achieved. The aptly titled “For Joy” follows on its heels and it’s a hearty chunk of west coast funk seasoned liberally with unconventional accents. If you think you’ve got a bead on this group’s intentions, beware, they toss in frequent surprises that keep all their tracks from getting stale and this song is no exception. Terry Haggerty’s guitar solo is on fire and the air that surrounds this tune is so pure and cleansing that I dare you to remain in a bad mood while it’s on. (If you do you need therapy.) “Who/Heaven Only Knows” begins like a typical ballad but soon its eclectic colors come shining through with a driving chorus and a totally unpredictable chord progression. “Who’s gonna live your life for you?/who?/someone you know?/who’s gonna die when it’s your time to go?” Champlin sings. Without warning they elevate the intensity and tempo for Terry’s guitar ride that’s jazzy and slightly rude (in a good way), just what you’ll learn to anticipate from him. The whole six and a half minute journey they take you on isn’t something easily digested in one sitting but it’s well worth the effort to chew on it patiently over repeated listens.

“Right On” isn’t as corny as its dated moniker. It starts with a slinky jazz feel that doesn’t stay tame for long once the group’s unique affectations invade the arrangement. Haggerty’s guitar, as usual, is their reliable secret weapon against complacency. He adds wild, jazzy twists to the stewpot combined with heavy doses of passionate picking, all motivated underneath by the boisterous rhythm section of James Preston (drums) and David Schallock (bass). The only cut not penned by Bill on this disc is Terry’s jubilant dance number, “No Mo’.” It features Champlin’s incredibly soulful voice and the band’s inimitable male chorale chirping behind him like castrated cockatiels. By now it’s no shock that Haggerty’s guitar lead curls your hair because evidently no one told him he had to behave himself on the instrument. “The Swim” is next. A Rhodes electric piano provides a cool pulsating current at the onset but this track, more than any other on the album, focuses on their envy-generating, versatile vocal acumen. Soprano parts pose no obstacle for these fellas. And I adore the growling Hammond organ that lurks just below the surface like a hungry shark.

The album’s namesake is a 12-minute long epic medley of different movements that’s mind-blowing. They open with “Silence,” a mesmerizing piece of quietness inhabited by a dense yet delicate aura akin to walking slowly through a majestic church sanctuary. “Oh, Lord/won’t you show me/I’m too blind to see/Oh, Lord/let me know me/let me see me free,” Bill pleads. Suddenly Preston’s snare drum jolts you out of your calm reverie as the atmosphere transforms into a vigorous R&B-with-gospel-overtones affair for “Sound/Turn Around.” Champlin’s complex vocal lines and the group’s always unorthodox sound concepts so evident here reinforces what I said earlier about them being a musician’s band. This sort of divergence from the norm is not for the casual, inattentive ear. They seamlessly segue into “Healthy Woman,” another intriguing phase of this challenging kaleidoscope of intricate yet entertaining ideas-flowing-in-a-stream segments. Then, like a sea breeze, the refreshing spray of “Welcome to the Dance” blows in. A roiling honky-tonk piano leads to some primo blues-joint rock & roll peppered with brassy horns, striking harmony vocal lines and locomotion out the caboose. The B-3 organ solo is invigorating and Bill holds nothing back in his singing as he cuts loose with all he’s got left in the tank. The key modulation arrives at just the right time and place as this happy fraternity of sons collectively hoist you onto their shoulders and carry you away, an unbreakable smile plastered on your face, over and beyond the glowing horizon.

Despite repeated efforts by combos I played with (and many like-minded others in north Texas) in the early 70s to force our audiences into liking the “Sons of Champlin” by performing several of these tunes (mixed in with the pop hits we were compelled to cover in order to stay employed) we eventually realized that we could drive the cattle to the creek but we couldn’t make them drink. That’s fine, though. In retrospect I wouldn’t have had it any other way because it may’ve meant diluting this ensemble’s imaginative output in order for them to have gained wider acceptance and then their material wouldn’t own the delightful charm it holds so exquisitely. The musical rebel that lives in me loves what these uncompromising Bohemian cats produced on this timeless recording. It always sounds, smells and tastes like unrestricted musical freedom, reminding me that some lucky artists were allowed to indulge in this kind of strange magic circa 1973 and still get signed by a major label. I wish those days would return.


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