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No Place Left to Fall

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Album Review

Having waited 13 years between solo albums, Bill Champlin undoubtedly had a lot he wanted to say. And so, on No Place Left to Fall, he pretty much says it all, wrangling his various influences and tying them together neatly on what may just be his definitive personal statement. When Champlin first came to prominence in the '60s as singer and keyboardist for the San Francisco staples the Sons of Champlin, he made it immediately clear that his interests were not like those of the other local bands: with an R&B-inspired horn section, prominent organ, and devotion to soul, the Sons of Champlin were miles away from what contemporaries like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were turning out. Yet they shared billings at the same ballrooms and were accepted by the hippie throngs, even if the Sons never established much of a reputation outside of their home base. In 1981, Champlin surprised his fans by taking a gig as the newest member of Chicago, which undoubtedly gave him more exposure and a larger paycheck, but he's still remained largely under the radar during that lengthy stint, his name unknown to all but the group's most devoted fans. That group's pop influence and commercial sensibilities surface in No Place Left to Fall's polished arrangements and lack of rough edges, but the R&B roots are never far from the surface — Champlin sounds comfortable within these songs. Even the sheen of the Diane Warren-authored acoustic, harmonies-drenched version of "Look Away" — a remake of the song Champlin and Chicago took to number one in 1988 — now seems to fit him well, whereas on the hit his involvement felt forced. That track is hardly the most notable on the new record, though — the opening "Total Control," a solid piece of funk 'n' roll featuring Champlin on the Hammond B-3, is reminiscent of the Sons at their best, while "Angelina" injects a country feel into a good-time tune about the kind of woman who will always mystify the male species. "Tuggin' on Your Sleeve," with a backbeat that can't be beat, is something of a family affair, with son Will Champlin handling the Wurlitzer piano and Bill's wife, Tamara Champlin, among the background singers. Physical copies of the CD come with a bonus DVD including a documentary on the making of the album, live footage, and more.


Born: 21 May 1947 in Oakland, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Singer/songwriter/keyboard player/guitarist Bill Champlin has been a rock journeyman in a career dating back to the 1960s. Starting in 1966, Champlin was the pivotal figure in a San Francisco-based group called the Sons of Champlin that existed and made records off and on for over a decade without gaining a great deal of notice. In 1981, Champlin became a member of Chicago, with whom he has recorded and toured ever since, while releasing the occasional solo album, sometimes only in Japan. He scored...
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No Place Left to Fall, Bill Champlin
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