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:
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