Bill Champlin - guitar, keyboards, vocals; Terry Haggerty - lead guitar; Geoffrey Palmer - keyboards; Dave Schallock - bass; James Preston - drums; Mark Isham - trumpet; Phil Woods - saxophone
The Sons of Champlin opened these New Year's Eve festivities on a bill that also featured The New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Grateful Dead.
At this point in time, the Sons seemed poised for success, soon to release their fourth album, Welcome To The Dance, which they believed would gain them the recognition that had long eluded them through the years. Adding elements of soul and funk to their foundational blend of rock, R&B and jazz, the band had never sounded better. The new songs played this evening were some of Bill Champlin's best compositions and the forthcoming album would contain much of their most accessible material.
This recording picks up part way into their set. Beginning with "Right On," the tape reveals a band playing with energy and conviction; they immediately establish a contagious groove that evolves eventually into a hot Terry Haggerty solo toward the end. Other than the cover of "Kansas City" that follows, the remainder of the set concentrates on material destined for their upcoming album. Many of the songs celebrate life and are overly optimistic, but that was always part of the band's charm.
Of particular interest is the Welcome To The Dance suite of songs, containing the first three sections of that unique, diverse piece of music. Beginning with the gospel overtones of "Silence," gaining momentum with "Sound/Turn Around" and moving right into the optimistic "Healthy Woman," this is one of the most adventurous pieces in the group's repertoire at the time. Surprisingly, the band refrains from playing the celebratory title track at the end, which would become the single off their next album.
This show, much like their forthcoming album, is full of the upbeat, good vibe songs that were always the band's trademark. Their positive energy and life-affirming lyrics were a throwback to the 60s, but they delivered them with a singular, sincere style - and always with great enthusiasm and musicianship.
A fine opening set to a monumental night of Bay Area music.