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

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New Muddy Waters/Stones Double Vinyl Makes A Great Performance Greater

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment released what is one of the year’s best live releases earlier this year in the classic 1981 performance of The Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters live at Chicago’s Checkerboard Lounge.  That set contained both a DVD and CD.  Now, Eagle Rock has followed up that release and sweetened the deal for audiences even more with a new vinyl/DVD companion to the DVD/CD set.

 The new Vinyl/DVD companion to Eagle Rock’s previous release contains the entire performance from the DVD/CD set on two vinyls.  It also includes the artists’ full performance on a full length DVD presentation.  This new addition to the previously released set as it makes the classic performance that much more fully encompassing.  Just as listening to the CD and watching the DVD will give fans of the modern medium a full concert experience, so will this new set.  Audiences who haven’t yet checked out either set will be amazed at the enjoyment that they will experience, especially with this additional piece.  This iconic show was recorded before the dawn of compact discs.  And it was recorded in one of the “queen cities of jazz and the blues.”  Knowing that, putting on the vinyls will bring on a total sense of nostalgia for any fan that might prefer that medium. 

Listening to the concert on vinyl will instantly conjure up some wonderful nostalgic feelings in any listener young enough to recall those days before compact discs and mp3’s.  It’s a fantastic feeling to put on either disc, close one’s eyes, and really take in the music.  It may be even more so than with the CD presentation, because of that sense of nostalgia.  That’s just part of the whole package, though.  As wonderful as it is to experience this show as it was really meant to be experienced, the inclusion of a DVD with the full concert makes the entire thing that much better.  Being able to see the Stones, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, and all the others up on that tiny stage is incredible.  After having seen the show, audiences can go back, put the vinyls on back to back and gain that much more appreciation for what is one of this great nation’s greatest musical genres and for the artists performing each song.  Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones Live at the Checkerboard Lounge is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered direct via Eagle Rock Entertainment’s website, http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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STP shows it’s “alive” and well in new concert

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Stone Temple Pilots is one of the most famous bands of the 90’s rock world.  The San Diego, California based band saw its share of highs in the release of its first two albums, with numerous singles hitting radio stations nationwide.  It’s also seen its lows as a result of frontman Scott Weiland’s personal and legal issues.  But now, with the release of its brand new live recording, “Alive in The Windy City”, it would seem that Stone Temple Pilots is making its way back to the top of the rock world.

“Alive in the Windy City” documents the band’s 2010 show at Chicago’s historic Riviera Theatre.  The band put on a high adrenaline show with hits from across its catalogue, including:  ‘Creep’, ‘Dead and Bloated’, ‘and the band’s biggest hit, ‘Vasoline.’  The way the band rockets through its set, one wouldn’t even think the band’s members had been apart that long.  It’s amazing the energy coming from the band, as fast as it blazed through its set.  All four of the band’s members–Scott Weiland (vocals), Dean DeLeo (guitar), Robert DeLeo (bass) and Eric Kretz (drums)—-hit their marks from the opening strains of ‘Vasoline’ to the fading notes of ‘Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart.’

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

The audience in attendance felt the energy shared by the band, and gave it right back to the band.  The audience sang every word to every song without fail throughout the show.  And so will anyone that picks up the dvd or blu-ray release of this show.  It’s a solid performance from start to finish.  And there’s no denying that for fans who grew up with STP, “Alive in The Windy City” is like a time machine that will take them back to another time.

Whether or not fans pick up “Alive in The Windy City”, they’ll also get the chance to see the band live this Summer.  STP will be touring in support of the new release, with dates across North America, starting in Kingston, Ontario, Canada on August 19th.  Fans can get a full listing of the band’s tour dates online at http://www.stonetemplepilots.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/stpband, on Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/stonetemplepilots, and on its official Youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/officialstp.

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John Van Eps talks Robert Lamm Remixes

Good morning, everyone.  While I work on today’s brand new edition of Phil’s Picks, I’ve got a treat for you.  I’ve got another interview to share with you.  This morning, I’m happy to share an interview with John van Eps, who worked with Chicago’s Robert Lamm on the new release, Robert Lamm Songs:  The JVE ReMixes.  And don’t forget next week, we’ve got lots more new and upcoming dvd releases.  Have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend.  And if you know a veteran out there, say Thank You to him or her.  If you are a veteran, Thank you for your service, and thank you to you and your family for your sacrifices!

RR: I want to jump right into this new compilation.  Who originally came up with the idea for this project?  What was the reaction when it was proposed?
JVE: About 5 years ago I did a remix of 25 to 6 to 4  just for fun ( its the last track on the cd)  and Robert liked it and suggested I do a few for The Bossa project we were working on.  When that was done Robert suggested we continue with Chicago tunes.

 

RR:  This is a really interesting collection of songs.  The issues with a Chicago connection aside, how do you feel about the finished product?  Has there been any discussion about making another compilation, maybe centered solely on Robert Lamm works alone?

JVE:  always dislike everything I have done when I finish with it, I have such a blast doing the work all I hear when its over is all the things I could have done better

 

RR:  In assembling these new creations, were there any that you enjoyed more than the others?  Not to say that you didn’t enjoy making some songs, but did others.  But are there any that would be considered favorites to make?                           

JVE:  The Latin version of 25 to 6 to 4 was my fav  I put the whole song in a different key so the the horn parts would fit with  the salsa/latin moo

 

RR:  If it’s too personal, you don’t have to answer, but I was curious about the rumors circling around why this was called Robert Lamm songs, instead of having the Chicago name on it.  My understanding is that it was meant to originally be another Chicago release.  Was the resistance from a member/mermbers of Chicago or another party?  Can you expand any on all the talk concerning that?                          

JVE:  Robert will have to answer that, but for Me Robert is very adventuresome, and experimental  and this concept really spoke to him.

 
RR:  The songs on this album are a great representation both of Chicago and of Robert Lamm.  How did you come to the final list of songs to re-imagine?
JVE:  I actually did many more songs, but Robert picked his fans’

 

RR:  It’s noted that John had concerns about response from fans and critics on the Chicago website.  Have there been any early reactions on the band’s website to the project?  If so, what has been the general reaction?  Has it been welcomed, or jeered?
JVE:  Not sure I am afraid to go to the web site

 

RR:  This collection of songs has been four years in the making.  So what held up its release?  What kept it from seeing the light of day for so long?
JVE:  We have both been very busy so this was done almost completely by email, that can add some serious delay, and misunderstandings  with next steps.

 

RR:  This question is for both of you.  There are a lot of producers out there today that do remixes.  Are there any producers and or remix albums that really stand out as being especially impressive to you?  And for Robert, what bands really stand out to you as really great bands?  Are there any that make you stand up and say, “WOW!”? 

 JVE:  I am a big pogo fan (the guy who does all the strange disney remixes on u tube )

 

RR: Robert, Chicago has been one of the most respected names in rock music ever since its early days.  Chicago, like so many other “classic” rock acts, have kept rolling strong, while so many other bands have come and gone over the decades.  What do you think it is about Chicago and other “classic” rock acts that have kept them going while so many “newer” bands have released say a few albums and disappeared?

 

RR:  Just one more question before I go.  With this album finished and set for release, what’s next for both of you?  What are the odds of fans ever hearing a new Chicago album?  And what about you, John?  What’s next for you?  What artists are you already planning on working with or already working with?
JVE: am keeping my day job doing master recreations for various publishers as well as starting work with a French Artist  “Chardeau ”

 

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Robert Lamm Songs gives new birth to great classics

The weather’s getting warmer.  Schools and colleges across the country are holding graduation ceremonies, and schools are also now in prom season.  That means lots and lots of people are making plans for road trips and weekend get togethers.  And what goes better with road trips and parties than some fun music?  Enter Chicago vocalist Robert Lamm and producer John Van Eps.  The pair have teamed up for an album of remixes of classic songs from both Lamm and Chicago titled, “Robert Lamm Songs:  The JVE ReMixes.

“Robert Lamm Songs:  The JVE ReMixes” hits stores June 1st.  The album takes a collection of songs from Chicago and from Lamm himself and completely re-invents them.  It’s highlighted by the remixes of Chicago’s ’25 or 6 to 4′ and Lamm’s own hit, ‘You’re My Sunshine Everyday.’  Van Eps’ remix of ’25 or 6 to 4′ is a great samba style remake that makes for a great dance moment at any party or prom.  The additional remix that closes the album is just as fun.  The first remix is dubbed the “dance” mix, and the second the “latin” mix.  But both are great dance mixes.  Van Eps’ take on Lamm’s ‘You’re My Sunshine Everyday’ is just as impressive.  It’s one of those songs that is great both for parties and road trips.

When asked about the collection of remixes, Van Eps said of it, “It’s supposed to be quirky and fun.”  He added that he was at least a little concerned about response to this collection, saying, “My fear is that the Chicago website is going to be rife with complaints about what I’ve done!”  But the reality of this compilation is that neither Van Eps nor Lamm himself have anything about which to be concerned.    Every song throughout this release has its own identity.  Even the remix of Chicago’s ‘Beginnings’, which opens the album, gets a great rebirth of sort on this compilation.  Lamm himself put it best in saying of these songs, “They are more than remixes:  They arenewcompositions based on my songs, using ‘stems’ from various recordings.”  The songs really are new songs all the way around.  It could even be argued that this set of songs is more original pieces set against a backdrop of songs from Chicago and Lamm that were sliced, diced and re-assembled specifically to fit each new creation than Chicago songs that have simply been re-imagined.

Considering how interesting a listen this collection of songs is, one can’t help but wonder why exactly the remaining members of Chicago passed on having any direct connection to the project.  Regardless, it definitely turned out to be one of those pieces that stands out because of its originality and creativity.  Not only has it re-introduced some classic songs to older audiences, but it has also successfully found a way to introduce these classics to a whole new generation of audiences.  Audiences can buy the album online at http://www.RobertLammSolo.com, http://www.chicagotheband.com and http://chicagotheband.us if they can’t find it in stores.  It will also be available via iTunes, Amazon.com and all other digital outlets.

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