In 1970 after Moby Grape had broken up and the Sons of Champlin were on indefinite hiatus members of the two bands-- Jerry Miller from Moby Grape and Bill Champlin from the Sons of Champlin teamed up with Fuzzy Oxendine and John Barrett to form the Rhythm Dukes.
Primarily a live band, the Rhythm Dukes were fixtures at Bill Graham's various venues in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1970 they headed into the studio and recorded an album that would not see the light of day for 35 years!
Some of the songs on the album-- For Joy, Hey Children & I'd Like to Get to Know You-- were later re-recorded by the Sons of Champlin (albeit in substantially different forms than those heard on Flash Back) but most of the material on this album remained unheard for 35 years.
The material on the album bears the fruit of the influences of both Moby Grape and the Sons of Champlin. The Sons of Champlin influence is considerably more prevalant than the Moby Grape influence as Bill Champlin was not only vocalist and keyboardist, but he wrote 6 out of the 10 songs that appear on the album.
The album starts out with the Jerry Miller penned Love Your Daddy All Night Long which is an amusing musical selection considering this album was recorded in a church. Not exactly the type of material one might expect to hear recorded or performed inside a church.
While the lead vocal performances featuring Champlin are the strongest the vocal harmonies leave a bit to be desired. There's a somewhat over-relaxed looseness to them drawing attention away from otherwise strong material and instrumental performances and shifting the focus to the mediocre garage band-esque feel that the harmony vocals give the material.
Perhaps one of the strongest overall performances on the album is their cover of the blues classic, Kansas City. Champlin totally cooks. His B3 playing and his soulful vocals are a perfect fit for the song.
For Joy stretches out to a 14+ minute jam that Champlin would later trim to under five minutes when he re-recorded the song with the Sons of Champlin for their Welcome to the Dance album. The Rhythm Dukes version seems excessive but it does allow the band to stretch out and show off their musical talents.
In short this collection is not for the casual listener-- although fan completists of the works of Moby Grape or the Sons of Champlin may want to pick this album up as it provides an interesting snapshot of where members of the respective bands were in 1970 it's merely a curiousity for the more casual listeners of either group... That being said even for the casual listener this album is almost worth picking up for the cover of Kansas City alone.
Currently the CD is only available directly from the Rhythm Dukes website . The packaging is rather amateur-ish, however this is encouraging as most of the money paid for the CD actually goes to the guys who performed the music on it and not suits in the recording industry.
Rhythm Dukes (official website)
Sons of Champlin (official website)
Bill Champlin (official website)
Jerry Miller (official website)
Rhythm Dukes (wikipedia entry)
Moby Grape (wikipedia entry)
Sons of Champlin (wikipedia entry)
Jerry Miller (wikipedia entry)
Bill Champlin (wikipedia entry)
Other Bill Champlin/Sons of Champlin related blog posts