Thursday, July 29, 2010
Forgotten Music Thursday: Bill Champlin - Runaway (1981)
Produced by the then up-and-coming producer, David Foster, back when Foster was still largely unknown by those not "in the know."
Much like with Chicago 16, Foster's formula for success was intact with Runaway. He brought in the best of the best session cats to augment Champlin's vocals and keyboard chops.
Where Champlin's solo debut, Single, still had many of the blue-eyed soul leanings of Bill's then former band, The Sons of Champlin, Runaway, was a step more in the direction of his future adult contemporary/pop leanings of Chicago. While some of the Jerry Hey horn arrangements (in particular Take It Uptown and Satisfaction, the latter of which Chicago actually included in their live set in the early 80s) would not have sounded out of place on a Chicago album, there's still enough of Bill on here to distinguish this as his album and not a Chicago-wannabe album. The grit is still in his vocals, although that grit is considerably more polished with David Foster at the helm than it was during his days fronting the Sons of Champlin.
What makes the album as a whole so enjoyable is its consistency. There's not a weak track to be found, a testament to both Champlin's songwriting and Foster's production. The closest any material comes to being weak is Stop Knockin' On My Door which musically is as good as anything else on the album, however lyrically it comes across more as a novelty song. But even the novelty of the lyrics can be excused as Bill's way of showing he's not taking himself nor his music TOO seriously. He still knew how to have fun and the lyrics are a testament to that fun-loving nature.
Given the personnel associated with this album its comparisons to Chicago 16 and 17 are completely unavoidable. And perhaps the only way this album could have been improved upon would have been with the participation of Peter Cetera. There was an undeniable vocal chemistry between Champlin & Cetera that was never more evident than on songs like Sonny Think Twice from Chicago 16 or Hard Habit to Break from Chicago 17. Had that vocal chemistry been discovered just a bit sooner, I have little doubt that Cetera would have made an appearance on this album as many of these songs sound tailor-made for Champlin and Cetera collaborations, the two of them trading off on vocals much as they did on the aforementioned Chicago albums.
But even without Cetera's participation, this album is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to and is easily one of Champlin's best solo endeavours.
Bill Champlin (official site)
Bill Champlin (wikipedia)
Other Bill Champlin related reviews/articles on this site
David Foster (official site)
David Foster (wikipedia)