Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: The Sons of Champlin, Loosen Up Naturally

The Sons of Champlin were one of the late ’60s San Francisco bands and “Loosen Up Naturally” was their first album.  The band was fronted by Bill Champlin who wrote most of the songs, sang and sons of champlinplayed guitar, keyboards and sax.  The rest of the six man band included Terry Haggerty (guitar, vocals), Geoff Palmer (keyboards, bass, sax, vocals), Tim Cain (sax), Al Strong (bass) and Bill Bowen (drums).  “Loosen Up Naturally” was originally released as a two disc set in 1969.

The sax players in their lineup gave the Sons their unique sound.  The band favored soul review styled songs with Hammond B3 organ and psychedelic guitar flavorings.  The results are strikingly different from the other San Francisco bands of the period.  Champlin was a fine songwriter and many of the tracks on “Loosen Up Naturally” feature inventive arrangements, good horn charts and interesting song structures.  Think a looser, and in some ways more exciting, very early Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears without BS&T’s powerful vocals.  Indeed, vocals are the group’s most glaring weakness. Champlin simply doesn’t have the vocal power or grit to sing this type of music and he has issues with singing in key.  Vocals notwithstanding, “Loosen Up Naturally” is a very good album that holds up well.  Put Janis Joplin in front of this band and the history of the world might have been different.

Some comments attributed to Champlin in the booklet that accompanies this rerelease are striking.  He whines about why the band was held back with some of the lamest excuses imagineable.  First, the album had to be recalled and the cover redone because someone complained that it had the word “fuck” on it.  This supposedly destroyed any impetus the band had generated.  Another major problem in Champlin’s view was that songwriting credits were given to the band’s roadie although Champlin wrote almost all the tunes, lol, like people pay attention to who the songwriter is on the first album from an unknown band.  When you consider the setbacks other bands have overcome these excuses are laughable.  At least in one sense, Champlin was a man ahead of his time; this kind of whining about tiny problems wouldn’t come into style until the slacker generation made its presence felt.

Fortunately, liner notes have nothing to do with whether an album is any good and “Loosen Up Naturally” is well worth listening to.  Because of its solid roots in soul and R&B and inventive arrangements the music holds up very well.  Fans of BS&T or early Chicago will find a lot to like here.

Music from This CD can be heard on Tuned In To Music Podcast 011 – 1960s San Francisco (Part 3) The Second Wave

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08/21/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | ,

6 Comments »

  1. I have been th roadie for The Sons since 1968, and I was in the studio when Loosen Up was recorded.

    Your interpretation of Bill’s comments were way off base.

    Check out my Sons of Champlin website.

    Comment by Repack Rider | 09/03/2007 | Reply

  2. Wow. I wish this comment area had a preview feature.

    “the” roadie

    “was” off base

    Comment by Repack Rider | 09/03/2007 | Reply

  3. […] rock that is largely being ignored by US labels that includes albums like Sons of Champlin’s Loosen Up Naturally, Dinosaurs’ Friends of Extinction, and “Copperhead” featuring Quicksilver […]

    Pingback by Review: Joy of Cooking, Joy of Cooking « Tuned In To Music | 09/21/2007 | Reply

  4. Champlin is a grammy winning singer/songwriter. He and Geoff Palmer have reformed the Sons in recent years with Dave Schallock on bass and Jim Preston on drums.

    The Sons of Champlin did a solid job of mixing psychedelic with blue-eyed soul.

    You do seem to have taken Champlin’s comments quite out of context. Those are reasons he gives for why the band didn’t take off, but he– in other interviews that if he knew then what he knows now… if he had that maturity back then things would have panned out much differently. I think honestly that the reason the Sons didn’t take off was because they lacked the maturity of many of their contemporaries.

    Comment by Perplexio | 02/11/2008 | Reply

  5. Champlin’s voice on this album is awesome! Also, you failed to mention the most stunning guitar work being produced on the planet at that time played by Terry Haggerty on Loosen Up Naturally (listen to the solo on ‘Freedom’ or ‘Better’) . I haven’t read the liner notes – don’t need to. Didn’t know the album was out on cd though, thanks for letting me know!

    Larry

    Comment by Larry Van Kriedt | 03/23/2008 | Reply

  6. The album “Loosen Up Naturally” is still (after 41 years) a towering example of pure musicianship at it’s other-worldly best. Everything you hear on that album was played by guys in their twenties.

    For those of us who were fortunate enough to hear the Sons play live, the experience was TRANSCENDENTAL. If you never witnessed that perfect soulfunkrhythmjazz coming out of those raggedy, long-haired, mega-stoned magicians from 20 feet away, you missed a life changing power.

    The first time I saw the Sons of Champlin live in 1966, I was 14 and already a devoted guitar player. I watched Terry Haggerty play one impossible solo after another until I stood there with tears in my eyes. I was thinking “Someday he’s going to die. How can that be? How can such perfection be mortal?”

    “Loosen Up Naturally” represents only a fraction of what the Sons were all about. Every other band in the S.F. Bay Area KNEW the Sons were untouchable. The songs (mostly Bill Champlin’s) were so much more sophisticated than any music played by the better known S.F. bands. Every serious Bay Area guitar player (Garcia, Jerry Miller, Santana, etc.) revered Terry, and recognized his immense gift.

    If you’ve never heard “Loosen Up Naturally”, and you love music that makes you move, do yourself a favor….

    Comment by Rob Diamond | 06/14/2008 | Reply


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