Saturday, 5 April 2014

"Loosen Up Naturally", "The Sons" and "Follow Your Heart" by THE SONS OF CHAMPLIN [aka THE SONS] – A Review Of Their 1st, 2nd and 3rd Albums from 1969 and 1971 - Now Remastered For CD By Beat Goes On In 2014…

SONS OF CHAMPLIN and bands like them are part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:


"…Some Things To Show…" 

Taking their name from bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Bill Champlin – THE SONS OF CHAMPLIN [aka The SONS] were something of well-kept West Coat secret for most British fans. 
But this fantastic 2014 double-CD haul on Britain’s Beat Goes On (BGO) rectifies that San Francisco hole in your life with huge style. Here are the longhaired be-speckled LSD-induced details…

UK released April 2014 – Beat Goes On BGOCD 1135 contains 3 full albums on 2CDs as follows…

Disc 1 (73:08 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 11 are the band’s debut album “Loosen Up Naturally” originally released May 1969 in the USA as a 2LP set on Capitol Records SWBB-200

Tracks 12 and 13 are the first two tracks on Side 1 of their 2nd American album ‘The Sons” (now credited simply as The Sons) released November 1969 on Capitol Records SKAO-332

Disc 2 (71:24 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 5 are the remainder of “The Sons” LP

(Also credited as by The Sons) Tracks 6 to 14 are their 3rd American vinyl album “Follow Your Heart” released January 1971 on Capitol Records ST-675   

There’s a classy card-wrap on the outside and the chockfull 20-page booklet has typically brilliant and informative JOHN TOBLER liner notes. Tobler also rightly acknowledges CHARLIE KELLY - a former Roadie for The Sons whose website has strung together huge amounts of info about the band and its previous incarnation as THE OPPOSITE SIX. None of these three Capitol Records albums ever saw a UK release on vinyl and up until a few years ago info on the Band had remained virtually a mystery. There’s even lyrics to the 3rd LP “Follow Your Heart”. It's impressively done.

But as ever the real news comes with the great sound… All 3 albums saw CD reissue on One Way in the mid 1990s and on Acadia in the 2000s – yet to my ears these newly minted remasters by ANDREW THOMPSON trump the lot – filled with a sonic power that is overwhelming at times. There's wonderful clarity and presence on all three outings - a deftly handled transfer.

Proceedings open with truly fantastic clarity on the poppy “1982-A” (a title supplied by the Engineer) and continue that way with “Misery Ain’t Free” and “Rooftop”. There’s a lovely musicality to “Black And Blue Rainbow” and they even get a bit commercial on the guitar-up of “Hello Sunlight” and “Things Are Getting' Better”. But it all comes together in the near 15-minute “Freedom” that made up the whole of Side 4. With an assault of Tenor and Baritone Saxophones fronting jagged guitars and a funky backbeat – the mammoth song sounds like a marriage between the Chicago Transit Authority 2LP set from 1969 and the first Emerson, Lake And Palmer album from 1970. Prog-like organs do battle with brass fills, punctuated intermittently by impassioned vocals and funky guitars to impressive if not long-winded effect.

But while the slightly-stoned double-debut is good – the single-album follow up “The Sons” saw real improvements in the songwriting – especially restraining the brass overload that afflicted some tracks on its predecessor. Side One openers “Love Of A Woman” (Bill Champlin on Vocals) and “Terry’s Tune” (Terry Haggerty on Vocals) now featured far calmer arrangements. Mellow one moment and hip the next - Haggerty’s voice on the second sounded not unlike a pleasing rendition of Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull. The 10-minute “Boomp Boomp Chop” ended Side One sounding again like the outcome of a Blood, Sweat & Tears after hours party. There are trippy vocals and vibes on the short “Country Girl” and the funky finisher “You Can Fly” was an obvious single (Capitol 2786) in early 1970.

Things take a more organized and mature turn with “Follow Your Heart” and the keyboard funky opener “Before You Right Now” contains a fantastic organ solo by Champlin. The acoustic “Children Know” feels almost concept album as does the near six-minute title track – both superbly produced by John Palladino. It’s surprising the short and upbeat “Headway” wasn't chosen as a lead off 7” single sounding like “Can’t Buy A Thrill” Steely Dan with Jeff Baxter in the ascendancy. The wordy seven-minutes of “The Child Continued” sounds Todd Rundgren in its complex yet soft reach. But most impressive of all is the trippy “A Sound Love” which has gorgeous instrumental flourishes (lyrics above) and sounds not unlike Greenslade three years prior. The upbeat “Well Done” gives it their best Three Dog Night with Guitars – and that’s not a bad thing in my book.

At times it's hard to pin down The Sons Of Champlin and their sound – part Chicago part BS&T part ELP meets Todd Rundgren meets Three Dog Night… And I suppose that’s what’s made so many fans forgive the occasionally bland vocals and overdone brass – because theirs is a unique listen - varied and interesting and therefore worth returning too.

It’s not all genius by any stretch of the imagination – but there’s a huge amount of largely unheard talent on display here (one double album and two singles) – and all of it sounding just amazing on this truly great remaster.

And if you’re curious about THE SONS OF CHAMPLIN (forgotten heroes of those heady California days) - then this is 'the' place to start exploring…

1 comment:

Repack Rider said...

I'm the former roadie who contributed to the liner notes. Any criticism of the band should take into account that these guys were between 20 and 22 years old when they recorded this stuff. There was no George Martin polishing the tunes. This was what they sounded like live.

The tunes stand up so well that some are still being performed.

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