1969 saw, on the same day, the release of two debut albums of two extremely talented horn bands. One of those bands, Chicago, went on to become one of the top-selling American bands in rock and roll history. The other, the Sons of Champlin, maintained a cult following but remained largely unknown outside their native California.
It is much to the listening public’s detriment that the Sons of Champlin’s Loosen Up Naturally has gone so widely unnoticed. Recently re-mastered and re-released this classic sounds as pristine as the day it was recorded.
Where Chicago was socially conscious and pro-active, the Sons took a more laidback pensive approach to their songwriting:
And we’ll all be making love on a hillside in the rain
If the inside is on the outside there’s no pain—from 1982-A
Misery isn’t free
I’ve got to be free
I need some space to lose my mind
Don’t need to waste this thing on time
Gonna loosen up naturally – from Misery Isn’t Free
C’mon, why don’t you c’mon
To the joy that’s in the air
It’s strong, so strongYou feel it everywhere – from Everywhere
Who wants to see a black and blue rainbow
Not you or me
But there are things we should know
There’s a reason for everything
A season for everything
The total of which is you
So you’ve got to see everything just to be everything—from Black & Blue Rainbow
Your strength is in your smileAnd not your frustration—from Freedom
Along with their flower-power friendly lyrics, many of Loosen Up Naturally’s songs have an infectious groove that gets into your system. You find yourself tapping on your steering wheel or humming the songs to yourself when you least expect it.
Possibly the catchiest songs on the album are Things Are Getting’ Better and the 14+ minute Freedom which truly captures the Sons at their best. Whether it’s Geoff Palmer’s vibes, Terry Haggerty’s guitar, the 3 piece horn section, or Champlin’s gritty soulful vocals, there’s a little something for everyone in Freedom, but perhaps the highlight of this gem is Champlin’s 2 minute scat-singing at 11-13 minutes into the song. It shows Champlin at his vocal best.
While the summer of love and Woodstock have long since passed, listening to this album is a time machine back to that era. And for those of us who missed it the first time around, this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to experiencing it.