Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#749 in the Series) is The Sons of Champlin, Welcome to the Dance
The Sons of Champlin were one of the most original bands to come out of the San Francisco ‘scene’ of the the late 1960’s. Headed up by Bill Champlin, they performed regularly at The Fillmore West and Avalon Ballroom, along with The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Tower of Power, among others. Their first album release was in 1969, Loosen Up Naturally, which featured a great hippie anthem, “Get High.” Two more releases for Capitol Records followed, after which the band was on the verge of breaking up, mainly due to personnel issues. A certain San Francisco “hippie” who considered the Sons music to be his “life” asked Champlin what it would take to keep the band together; “ A place to live and rehearse together, put together a new band, and record”. The “hippie” was Wally Haas, heir to the Levi Strauss fortune; he bought a recording Studio in the hills of Marin County, put the band up there, and out of that came “Welcome to The Dance” the 1972 version of the Sons of Champlin, with a new drummer and bass player.
Bill Champlin brought some very strong, R&B, soul/funk material to this album, like what Sly and The Family Stone were doing at the time. Champlin’s husky voice, supported by high harmonies and Terry Haggerty’s lightning fast guitar licks, complement’s the songs that celebrate life. The opening number, “Lightnin’ ” is a groovin’ tune that features some fine keyboard work by Geoff Palmer; “For Joy” has some very funky guitar by Terry Haggerty. “Who/Heaven Only Knows” has a distinct San Francisco “hippie” feel to it. (My daughter used to sing along to this song, as a toddler!) The only song on this album not written by Champlin is Terry Haggerty’s “No Mo’“; he provides some guitar sparks on this one. The title track is a 12 minute suite that goes from a gospel feel to an optimism of love to a celebration: “Welcome to The Dance”!
The Sons released several more albums after Welcome…, but none of those did as well, Billboard Chart wise, and they disbanded in the early 80’s. The band reformed in 1999 for a live recording, and have gotten back together occasionally since then. Bill Champlin is busy, touring with Chicago and the Max Weinberg Band.
Welcome to The Dance has been one my favorite San Francisco scene albums from the first time I heard it, and it’s every bit as fresh and contemporary sounding today. Some of the music from ‘back then’ sounds pretty lame in the 21st century. Not this one! It will still make you wanna Dance!
- For Joy.
- Heaven Only Knows.
- Right On.
- No Mo.
- The Swim.
- Welcome To The Dance Suite – Silence.
- Welcome To The Dance Suite – Sound-Turn Around.
- Welcome To The Dance Suite – Healthy Woman.
- Welcome To The Dance Suite – Welcome To The Dance.
- Bill Champlin – Guitar, Keyboards, Saxophone, Vocals
- Michael Andreas – Horn
- Terry Haggerty – Guitar, Vocals
- Geoffrey Palmer – Bass, Keyboards, Saxophone, Tabla, Vibe Master, Vibraphone, Vocals
- James Preston – Drums, Percussion
- David Schallok – Bass,Vocals
- Mark Isham – Horn
- Phil Woods – Horn
Here’s a few songs from the album
Listen to a full Sons of Champlin Concert from this albums tour in 1973
See more albums we’ve featured from 1973