Monday, August 30, 2010

Tamara Champlin - You Won't Get to Heaven Alive (1995)

A career session vocalist and songwriter, Tamara Champlin, has only released one solo album-- You Won't Get to Heaven Alive.  For years her voice has graced her husband, Bill Champlin's, solo albums. 

Why Tamara was never a bigger star remains a mystery.  She can sing like no one's business, not to mention she's very attractive-- oh wait the mainstream music industry only cares about one of those two things-- and it's not her actual singing talent they'd look at, unfortunately.

At the same time, listening to Tamara's one (and thus far only) solo album however it could be argued her lack of mainstream success could be due to timing.  As good as the material on her solo album is that even at the time of its release it sounded three to five years too late.  Had this album been released in the late eighties or early nineties it likely would have been met with considerably more fanfare.

So let's pretend this album was actually released in the late eighties or early nineties and look at it through that prism instead...

Tamara tackles an impressive variety of styles with tremendous pop sensibility.  There are horns on a few of tracks: Backstreets of Paradise, Rock and Roll Tragedy, and Crawl - the horn charts have an attitude, a swagger to them that sets them apart from many of the horn charts featuring other rock and pop songs of the era.  Roll the Bones features some great harmonica playing by Chicago drummer, Tris Imboden, showing his talents aren't limited to his drum kit. 

Lyrically, Tamara tackles several themes and issues.  Purple Black and Blonde is a not at all subtle stab at domestic violence: "Miss Misery regrets she'll be unable to attend, The fall she took last evening left a nearly fatal end, Her husband talks in circles, He insists she was alone, But the neighgors say the house is like a military zone." 

All of the material also shows hints of the blues that seems to suggest Bonnie Raitt.  Whether it's the aforementioned harmonica on  Roll the Bones, Tamara's vocals on Stone Cold and Only Love an undercurrent of the blues ripples under the surface of the entire album. 

The only real drawback to the album is it's dated sound-- largely due to the guitar parts that sound like trademark eighties guitar solos.  The material is, for the most part, quite strong, re-visiting the material with a more contemporary eye for arrangement might spell greater success.  (*** out of 5)

Related Links
Tamara Champlin (facebook)
Tamara Champlin (myspace music site)

No comments: