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Although the Sons of Champlin made their recording debut with the single "Sing Me a Rainbow" on Verve Records in 1967, it has taken them another two years to release this, their first album, which means they are late out of the starting blocks as far as psychedelic San Francisco rock bands are concerned. They try to make up for that with a major statement, a double-LP running over an hour. They also distinguish themselves immediately in terms of their instrumentation and arranging style. If the San Francisco sound is defined by simple folk-style song structures extended by long guitar solos, this is something entirely different.
The Sons take their inspiration from R&B and jazz, to which they then apply the psychedelic treatment. There is a talented lead guitarist in Terry Haggerty, but he has to fight for space in the songs with Bill Champlin, who plays organ and saxophone, as well as multi-instrumentalist Geoff Palmer, whose arsenal also includes saxophone, though he may also break out a mean vibraphone, as he does in "Get High." The horns are unusual in a San Francisco band and incline toward the coming sound of Blood, Sweat & Tears, although that outfit is far more pop-oriented. The Sons are perhaps better understood as fundamentally a jazz band, with their multiple soloists and complicated arrangements. Over all the furious playing, Champlin displays a gritty R&B vocal style, but the melodies are less important than the arrangements and the soloing.
Champlin's lyrics tend toward the philosophical with many references to being "free," and when he uses that word, he clearly is not just referring to personal liberty, but also to "free" playing, which is what the band does, particularly on the sidelong closing track, appropriately called "Freedom." Loosen Up Naturally, like many other double albums, probably could have been boiled down to a strong single LP, but the very concept of the band on this recording, as embodied in the title, is to spread out and blow, and that takes some space. the Sons of Champlin give the listener a lot to take in on their full-length debut, and they give themselves several interesting directions to pursue in the future.
During the late 1960s, The Sons of Champlin performed regularly at the San Francisco venues, the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore West. They shared billing with, among many others, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, and The Youngbloods. They were also the opening act at The Band's first concert at which they used the name "The Band," along with The Ace of Cups.
The Sons of Champlin did not rank in the first tier of the San Francisco psychedelic rock bands of the '60s with the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, but they did qualify for the second tier along with Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service, playing a more soul- and R&B-influenced style of music than their peers. Despite a somewhat lackadaisical attitude toward the demands of a professional career, they managed to chart a handful of albums in the late '60s and ‘70s.
The group was formed out of the remnants of the Opposite Six, an earlier band led by singer/keyboardist Bill Champlin, playing its first show at the College of Marin in Marin County, CA, in the spring of 1965, with a lineup also including saxophonist Tim Caine, guitarist Terry Haggerty, bassist Al Strong, and drummer Jim Myers, later replaced by Bill Bowen. (Although still a teenager, Champlin was married and a father, which inspired the band name.) By July 1966, they were playing at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco.
They released their debut single, "Sing Me a Rainbow," on Verve Records in March 1967, but when it failed to chart, a full-length LP was shelved. (It later earned release under the title Fat City.) Undaunted, the group added two horn players, Geoff Palmer and Jim Beem (who left in 1969), and turned to a more R&B/jazz-oriented style. It took more than a year before they got another chance to record, signing to Capitol Records in 1968 and releasing their label debut, the double-LP Loosen Up Naturally, in April 1969. It peaked at number 137. The band quickly recorded a second album, for which they temporarily shortened their name to the Sons; the LP, released in October, bore that name. It reached number 171. Tim Caine left the band after the album's release.
The Sons toured to support their second album and played in the Bay Area in the winter of 1970, but then broke up. Various members played in other bands until the fall, when they were called back into the studio by Capitol, which demanded another album on their contract. Thus, their third LP (again as the Sons of Champlin), Follow Your Heart, appeared in April 1971. It did not chart, and the band broke up again after a few promotional shows. Champlin, Haggerty, and Palmer continued to perform together, however, adding bassist David Schallock and drummer Jim Preston. They were at first reluctant to use the old group name, but eventually relented, reverting to calling themselves The Sons of Champlin in 1972. In 1973, they signed to Columbia Records and cut their fourth album, Welcome to the Dance, released in April. Hailed by many as their best album, it unfortunately got lost in corporate politics as company president Clive Davis was ousted; it peaked at number 186.
♦ Bill Champlin - guitar, keyboard, saxophone, vocals
♦ Geoffrey Palmer - bass, keyboards, saxophone, vocals
♦ Bill Bowen - drums
♦ Tim Cain - saxophone
♦ Terry Haggerty - guitar, vocals
♦ Al Strong - bass
01. 1982-A 03:35
02. The Thing to Do 04:51
03. Misery Isn't Free 04:20
04. Rooftop 03:48
05. Everywhere Listen 03:46
06. Don't Fight It, Do It! 04:19
07. Get High 07:49
08. Black and Blue Rainbow 03:23
09. Hello Sunlight 04:28
10. Things Are Getting Better 05:56
11. Freedom 14:46
Two singles were released in conjunction with this LP;
• Black And Blue Rainbow / 1982-A, The Sons Of Champlin, 1968 Capitol 2437
• Freedom / Hello Sunlight, The Sons Of Champlin, 1969, Capitol 2534