Peter Welker’s ‘Sidemen’ Project Is Among The Best Of 2021’s New Overall Albums

Courtesy: Summit Records

Musician-composer Peter Welker has had quite the career over the course of his adult life.  His resume includes work with the likes of Al Jarreau, The Pointer Sisters, Buddy Miles, and even Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia.  His work with those famed musicians makes up only a portion of the noted expansive resume. He added even more to that resume last month with the release of his latest project, Sidemen.  Released Aug. 6 through Summit Records, the 11-song record features guest appearances from Tony Levin, Pete Levin, Tom Scott, Bill Champlin, and Steve Morse and features an interesting mix of originals and covers.  Among the most notable of the record’s featured originals is the record’s only work with vocals, ‘You’re Gonna Let It Happen.’  This song will be discussed shortly.  ‘Creepin’ Up’ is another of the record’s notable originals and will be examined a little later.  The cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ is the most notable of the record’s covers.  It will also be discussed later.  All three songs show in their own way how much the record has to offer.  When they are considered along with the rest of the featured compositions, the whole makes the record another successful offering from Welker.

Peter Welker’s latest studio recording as a band leader, Sidemen, is a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences; this despite it being released through a label that is largely known for handling jazz records.  The record succeeds through its blend of originals and covers.  Among the most notable of the record’s originals is its only track that features vocals, ‘You’re Gonna Let It Happen.’  Co-written by Welker and Bill Champlin, the song’s lyrical content features a relatively familiar topic that is accessible in its own right.  It is a song sung by a man who is determined to get a woman to emotionally let him in and accept him in general, no matter how long it takes and what it takes.  He is determined to find out what will appeal to her so that she will like him.  It makes the song one of those works that would be a good fit in any relationship’s formative days.  It is just one part of what makes the song work, too.  The composition’s musical arrangement builds on the appeal formed by the song’s fully accessible lyrical theme to make the song that much more engaging and entertaining.

The musical arrangement featured in this song, is a relaxed but funky composition.  The use of the horns — including saxophonist Tom Scott’s solo – alongside the steady, solid time keeping from Todd Tribble and musical spice from organist Bill Champlin makes the arrangement so fun.  Not only does Champlin handle the B-3 organ here, but he also handles vocal duties.  His dirty, gritty vocals are so rich in their presentation, adding even more to the presentation, especially when he hits those high notes.  The collective of all involved along with them makes this song’s musical arrangement fully immersive and entertaining.  It is just one of the songs that makes the album so fun, too.  ‘Creepin’ Up’ is another notable original featured in this album.

‘Creepin’ Up’ stands out because its arrangement, is an interesting balance of old and new.  The song’s opening bars come across as a sort of throw back to the fusion sounds of Weather Report.  That sound lasts only a brief moment, though.  From there, Greg Johnson’s work on saxophone and the work of his fellow horn players conjures thoughts of the jazz sounds that were so popular in the 80s.  Meanwhile, David K. Matthews’ work on piano gives the song a lighter touch, making it a little more widely accessible as he breaks through the jazz subgenre boundaries.  His work along with that of Tribble on the drums and that of the rest of the collective makes this song so unique against its counterparts.  The whole becomes a surprisingly infectious work that is so smooth and light at the same time.  It is just a wonderful addition to the album that further exhibits what makes the album so engaging and entertaining.  It is yet another example of the album’s strengths.  The cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ is the most notable of the record’s featured covers.

Steve Morse’s work on guitar in ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ would make Jimi himself just as proud (if he were still with us today) as it will certainly his legions of fans worldwide.  That includes both his solo and his work alongside his fellow musicians in this case.  The light, bluesy sound and the production therein makes his work so rich.  Tribble’s work on the drums is just as impressive as that of Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell.  He remains solid throughout the song as he adds little fills and flares at all of the right points.  Meanwhile Cliff Hugo’s work on bass works just as well in coordination with that of his fellow musicians.  When the horns come into play and join the trio, the group in whole creates a take on this classic Hendrix composition that is just as enjoyable as its source material if not better.  When this composition is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s works, the entirety of that material makes Sidemen a fully immersive musical experience that audiences across the musical universe will enjoy.

Peter Welker’s new project, Sidemen is an impressive new offering from the veteran musician/composer.  That is evidenced from beginning to end of the hour-long presentation.  The arrangements that make up the record’s body make that clear.  They span musical genres and fully immerse audiences in each case.  The songs examined here do well to support the noted statements.  When they are considered with the rest of the album’s works, the whole makes Sidemen one of the best of this year’s new overall albums, at least in the ears and mind of this critic.

Sidemen is available now through Summit Records. More information on this and other titles from Summit Records is available online at:

Websitehttps://summitrecords.com

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Champlin’s New LP Is A Presentation That Most Audiences Will “Love”

Courtesy: Imagen Records

It goes without saying that singer-songwriter Bill Champlin is one of the most respected figures in the music industry today.  A one-time member of the world renowned band Chicago, Champlin has also worked on hits from  the likes of Donna Summers, Kenny Rogers, and Elton John just to name a few.  He has even worked on the theme song for CBS’ prime time drama In The Heat of the Night.  On top of all of those accolades, Champlin has also released 10 solo records, many of which have themselves generated some hit singles.  Now this Friday, Champlin will add another proverbial notch to his belt when he releases his new album Livin’ for Love.  The 14-song record will release physically and digitally through Imagen Records.  The 64-minute album is a presentation that will appeal to Champlin’s fans, what with its musical arrangements and lyrical themes, many of which follow the central theme of relationships, as hinted by the album’s title.  There are other songs featured in the album that break from the familiar and focus on other topics.  One of those songs comes late in the album’s run in the form of ‘Losin’ Ground.’  The socially conscious composition will be addressed shortly.  ‘A Stevie Song,’ which immediately follows ‘Losin’ Ground’ is another one of the rare works that avoids the album’s overarching theme of relationships.  It will be addressed a little later.  In regards to the mass of songs featured in this record that present the noted overarching theme, the least blatant of those works comes early in the album’s run in the form of ‘Especially Me.’  That song will also be addressed later.  Each song noted here plays its own important part to the album’s presentation.  The variance that they offer amongst the overwhelming songs of love is enough to make the album worth hearing at least once.

Bill Champlin’s latest album Livin’ for Love (his 11th album) is a presentation that will appeal equally to his own fans and those of classic rock in general.  That is due in part to the musical arrangements and to its lyrical themes, most of which focus on the central theme of relationships.  That theme is hinted at directly through the album’s title.  Now for those who want at least some lyrical variety, the album does offer that in a small handful of songs, one of which being the late entry ‘Losin’ Ground.’  The musical arrangement featured in ‘Losin’ Ground’ is a catchy, vintage blues style composition, complete with Hammond organ, soulful vocals (including backup vocals).  What’s interesting here is that the sound and style in  Champlin’s vocals lend themselves to comparisons to vocal performances from the likes of Dr. John.  It sounds odd, yes, but it is there at least in this critic’s ears and mind, and it works well.  The bluesy guitar line, while more of a supporting role here, adds its own nice touch to the overall arrangement, too.  Even more interesting is that the bluesy approach to the song’s musical arrangement works well here considering the social commentary featured in the song’s lyrical content. 

The lyrical content featured in ‘Losin’ Ground’ is somewhat mournful and rueful in its own right, making it a good fit with the song’s musical arrangement.  That is considering that the blues is meant to help alleviate negative feelings and thoughts.  The commentary here will resonate with listeners with its accessible wording.  Champlin opens the song, stating, “You can bet your bottom dollar/The lies are gonna come/An they’ll wrap it in ribbons and bows/And tell you we’re gonna have fun/We’ll scream and we’ll holler/And search for somebody to blame.”  He adds in the song’s chorus, “The same things always happen/When history’s ignored/It’s time to pay attention/We’ve all been here before/And we’re calling out for more.”  The commentary continues in the song’s second verse, “So fasten your seat belts/Here comes the same old thing/There’s just one destination/These promises will bring/Of course, the only answer/Is that we give up everything.”  Champlin continues from there/For someone else’s power/That’s what it’s always been/That same someone will tell you/It’s you who’s gonna win/So we let the games begin again.”  The message is clear here.  This is, as noted, a commentary on what is happening in the world.  Again, the bluesy musical arrangement that goes with the commentary is a good fit.  The two elements together will ensure listeners’ engagement and entertainment and in turn make this song stand out among the bigger body of Champlin’s album.  It is just one of the most notable of the album’s entries.  ‘A Stevie Song’ is another of the album’s most notable works.

As with ‘Losin’ Ground,’ ‘A Stevie Song’ avoids the overly common lyrical theme of love and relationships that abounds so much in this album.  Rather, this song is more about the power of music.  It is about the ability of music to help people’s emotional health.  Champlin even states in the song’s final line, “Music is the perfect path to love.”  It is just one of the lines that helps prove this song gives listeners an alternative on this record.  Champlin opens the song singing, “It doesn’t really matter who you are/You’e  never gonna travel very far alone/A melody you’re hearing comes across/Something on the radio and you’re lost/Somewhere deep inside a Stevie song.”  Now the mention of “Stevie” leads one to assume maybe Champlin is referencing Stevie Wonder.  Champlin does not come out and say it, but considering the R&B style musical arrangement featured in this song.  This will be addressed shortly.  Champlin continues after the lead verse, to continue, “Music is the perfect path to love/Poetry belongs just because it does/How’re you gonna break somebody’s heart/When you’ve just heard a really soulful part/Somewhere deep inside a Stevie song?”  Again, it is not confirmed that Champlin is referencing Stevie Wonder here, but one can’t deny the impact that Wonder’s music has.

Getting now to the song’s musical arrangement, the slow jam approach taken here lends itself to thoughts of Wonder’s 1974 hit song ‘Creepin.’  Yes, Wonder’s song is slightly more upbeat, but the similarities are there.  At the same time, the use of the soprano sax conjures thoughts of Kenny G.  Of course, that element is more supporting than main.  To that end, the overall arrangement still boasts some similarities to works from Stevie Wonder, and it does in fact leave listeners feeling good.  Keeping that in mind, the song’s lyrical content does prove true.  Collectively, the two sides leave no doubt as to why this song stands out.  It is just one more of the songs that manages to break the mold of the love song standard set throughout so much of this record.  ‘Especially Me’ is another key song to examine.

‘Especially Me’ stands out because its lyrical theme largely seems to break from the norm of most of the album.  This song comes across more as a song about someone who is trying to deny who and how she (in this case) really is.  That is evident right from the song’s lead verse, which finds Champlin singing, “I wanted to tell you/Whatcha, whatcha already know/Here comes that same old overused phrase/”I told you so.”  This is the song’s subject being blunt right from the get go, telling the woman he saw what was coming, coming.  He adds in the song’s second verse, “You make believe you weren’t in school/The day they handed out the rules/So you choose to play the fool/Every time you turn around/It’s like you’re reading a book full of lies/’Bout whatcha need/And you’re  eating it up/Tryin’ to love every man that you see/So, you’re eating it up just because  you wanna be free/You’re only cheating yourself/And all your friends/Especially me.”  This all seems to point, again, at someone who is trying to get a friend to see the light of what she is doing.  The content that follows is very much in the same vein.  To that end, this is the one remaining rare songs featured in this record that lyrically diverges from the more overarching theme of relationships.  Adding to its interest is the musical arrangement that pairs with the statement.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Especially Me’ is a funky, mid-tempo composition.  The energy in the song, does well to help illustrate the confidence, and even slight snarkiness in the main subject’s discussion with the secondary subject.  That energy is exuded through the combination of the solid time keeping and even the slight force in the delivery of the verses.  Simply put, the musical arrangement featured in this song and its companion lyrical content work well to make this song stand out.  Together with the other two songs noted here, this trio of songs does well to keep things at least somewhat interesting for Champlin’s new album and worth hearing at least once.

Bill Champlin’s latest album Livin’ for Love is an album whose overall body is largely composed of songs that, as noted by the title, are about relationships.  Fans of such content will certainly enjoy those songs.  Those who prefer a little more variety get that here, too, as noted by the songs examined here.  From a song that addresses the current state of the world, to a song about the soothing power of music, to a song in which the main subject tries to help a friend see the error of her ways, the record does offer some variance.  Between that variance and the album’s more overarching content, the whole of the album becomes more appealing for more audiences.  All things considered, the album proves itself worth hearing at least once.  Livin’ for Love is scheduled for release Friday through Imagen Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Bill Champlin’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.billchamplin.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/billchamplin

Twitter: http://twitter.com/billchamplin

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and ‘Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.