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gepubliceerd op vrijdag 8 januari 2010

Review: Bill Champlin, "No Place Left To Fall" - WOW! - English version

This is the English translation of a Dutch review on the album "No Place Left to Fall" by Bill Champlin:

Expectations are always high set for a new Bill Champlin album, even more so if the album is his first in 13 years. "No Place Left to Fall" was released on September 24, 2008. In my preview I described the album with the old Borg statement: 'Resistance is futile'. Some 6 months after I ordered the album, I have finally gotten around to listening to it. And on further consideration I still stand by that conclusion.

'Place Left to Fall', Jaar: 2009 No 'Place Left to Fall', Year: 2008
"No Place Left To Fall" is a cd with a soul crunching Al Green-like organ sound, full of westcoast-to-the-second-degree: sexy, rocking, jazzy and soulful. It gives quite a thrill to put on an album by a veteran and to have the very first sounds confirm that he hasn't lost his touch.

William Bradford Champlin: this guy obviously doesn't have to prove anything to anyone anymore. Whenever he releases an album, he does so because he enjoys doing so. And boy, has he ever enjoyed himself on "No Place Left To Fall"! His appetite for music is so contagious, it's sheer impossible to sit still and listen to it.

Still of Bill Champlin during an interview in Paris. Date: July 29, 2009 Bill Champlin during an interview in Paris. Date: July 29, 2009
The album cover shows an older guy (sorry Bill!). This is a bit of a shock, since I've known him as a young musicion on albums like "Runaway" (1971) and "Single" (1978). I guess it makes me realize I must have aged quite a bit as well. But make no mistake: in the meantime Champlin has had an awesome career, spanning more than forty years (yep, that's four-zero).

"No Place Left To Fall" comes in two versions; I bought the 'deluxe' version that includes a dvd. The dvd offers a great insight in the musical development that Champlin went through.
What's more, it is great to see the maestro at work. It is a pity that westcoast musicians like Champlin, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Jay Graydon, Robbie Dupree, Bill LaBounty, Bobby Kimball are rarely ever to be seen on the European main land. And that's why such a deluxe version with dvd is almost a must-have for the true fan; it is the second best thing to a live performance that you'll ever get, in Europe at least.

The Sons of Champlin The Sons of Champlin
It's great to see and hear him talk about his early musical influences like Lou Rawls ("This guy was like my teacher"), The Beatles and Bob Dylan, about his career (the first band he ever played in was a school band called Opposite Six: "we backed up The Righteous Brothers while we were in high school") and to hear him talk about his new album ("Man, I realize how fortunate I am to be able to do this."). Of course, he pays attention to the Sons of Champlin as well. And he introduces the one and only son of Champlin, his son Will.

However, it is, of course, all about the music. And boy, is this great music!

Soulful organs that make you grimace in extacy, soul touching guitar solos, grinding rockmusic you have to move your body to and fantastic vocal harmonies with some of the best voices in westcoast music. All that, and more, can be found on Bill Champlin's new album. If you are into rock and westcoast, this cd simply must be part of your collection. I had to order it separately, here in the Netherlands, since the deluxe version was not readily available here and it was sold out at Amazon at the time. I finally got a Japanese import version, which I am happy to say had a booklet in English, including credits, lyrics and liner notes.

The songs

Most of the songs were written by Bill Champlin himself. Songwriting credits also go to Jay Graydon (who at the time was also working on the first album for his new project JaR, called 'Scene 29'), Bill's son Will, his wife Tamara, Michael Caruso and Bruce Gaitsch.

The opening song is "Total Control". It's his calling card. Listen, be overwhelmed and let it warm you up. But be warned: it does take total control of your senses!
"Tugging on your Sleeve" (#2) also makes it impossible to sit still. People keep looking at me with a mildly annoyed expression when I listen to this song on my iPod on the train: I just cannot keep sitting still!
"The Truth" (#3) has this great drive; it really is a strong and powerful song, which is completely fitting in the tradition of Champlin's earlier work. Great guitar solo!
The title song "No Place Left To Fall" is one of the calmer songs on the album. It makes a great contrast with 'The Truth'. Also, the beautiful vocal arrangements make it one of the album's highlights.
From the very first piano chord on "Looking for you" (#6) has a distinct gospel-like quality. This is confirmed by the organ and the soulful choir. If the word 'you' in "I keep looking for you" were written with a capital Y, it would have been real gospel: pure blue-eyed westcoast gospel! I love this song!
"Never Been Afraid" (#7) was written by Bill Champlin himself and it displays his incredible craftmanship. It could just as well have been a Chicago song. This is the purest form of westcoast music possible with a fine solo performance by Steve Lukather (he still rocks!). And if you listen carefully, whom do you hear...? You guessed it: it's Chicago's former lead singer Peter Cetera. Great song as well!
"Never Let Go" (#11) is heavily jazz influenced. It starts off with a lovely 'voice-jam'. You can hear the influences of Supertramp and Chicago. It must be soooo fulfilling to have a great voice and to use it to have such a 'voice-jam' with friends and colleagues. Can't get enough if this.
The funkiest song, without a doubt, is "Stone Cold Hollywood". It has a grinding rythm, some fantastic horns, great organ sound and wonderful guitar riffs. Need I say more?
The last song "All Along" also is a typical Chicago song ("... you'll recognize the sound ..."). It ends in a true wall of sound, with a great climax. This is one of the most appropriate last songs on any album I've ever heard.
When you fell you fell completely
to the bottom of your soul
when I went along I was hangin' on
and hopin'it didn't show

For the times you were beside me
I was barely there for you
I believed the lies I told myself
and rarely heard the truth

First two verses of "Lookin' for You"

Complete track listing of "No Place Left To Fall":
  1. Total Control *
    'Place Left to Fall', Jaar: 2009
  2. Tuggin' on Your Sleeve
  3. The Truth *
  4. No Place Left to Fall
  5. Lover Like That
  6. Lookin' for You *
  7. Never Been Afraid *
  8. Angelina (or 'Angelina Happen', both titles are used in the booklet)
  9. Look Away
  10. I Want You to Stay
  11. Never Let Go
  12. Stone Cold Hollywood *
  13. All Along
* Mooimuziek's favorites

Album info:
  • Artist: Bill Champlin
  • Title: No Place Left to Fall
  • Producers: Mark Reddinger & Bill Champlin
  • Release date: September 24, 2008
  • Label: Victor Entertainment
  • Issue: Japanese (import)
  • Contents: CD+DVD
  • Barcode: 4 988002 555253

The musicians

  • Bill Champlin: lead vocals on all songs and background vocals on almost all of them; he also plays the Hammond organ, piano and acoustic as well as electric guitars,
  • Steve Lukather: guitars (solo)
  • Keith Howland: guitars (solo) - and yes, it's the same Keith Howland as in Chicago's lead guitarist
  • Bruce Gaitsch: guitars (acoustic and electric) - worked with Boston, Chicago, Philip Bailey
  • George Hawkins, jr.: bass - worked with Doobie Brothers, Jim Messina, Kenny Loggins
  • Billy Ward: drums & percussion
  • Mark Eddinger: Wurlitzer, synth. strings, co-producer
  • Tamara Champlin, Will Champlin, Peter Cetera, Michael English: background vocals


I have read quite a few reviews on this album that say it is not an innovative album. Honestly, I couldn't care less. I love any album that makes me forget everyday life for a moment everytime I listen to it. And "No Place Left to Fall" does just that! Music is about music: enjoy it, feel it in your bones, in your heart and in your soul. "No Place Left to Fall" does that too and very well indeed!

In short: "No Place Left to Fall" is an album Bill Champlin can be genuinely proud of. Actually, everyone that worked on the album can be really proud of it. No, it might not be innovative, but it is a logical next step in Champlin's impressive career. The jazz, blues and r&b influences make an excellent mix with the all-present westcoast sound.

Champlin has been called a musician's musician on many occasions. This album proves he has really earned this 'title'. Any lover of great music cannot leave this album untouched!


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