Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Story Time

I'm gonna break away from the Idaho State stuff for a minute to delve into something else so bear with me...I'll get to some Idaho State links here in a minute. I have to tell you a story, so get comfortable.

Many of you folks know, or maybe you don't know, about my favorite band, which is Chicago. Now, there's a myriad of reasons I like that band, the horns, the vocals, whatever, and some folks around here know that I can play the drums (set taught) and percussion, but I have always wanted to play the piano. That statement is even funnier because my wife is a piano player and teacher. Anyways, with the advent of the internet, I was able to really learn more about Chicago, and what I learned was maybe the most talented musician on the planet was in the band, and he was the guy who I tended to gravitate to when listening to CDs and stuff, and that guy in Bill Champlin. Bill joined the band in late 1981 after Chicago was doing so horribly that they were dumped by Columbia records after two albums of a long multi-album deal. Chicago 13 missed the top 20 and had no hit singles, and Chicago XIV hit #71, and it looked like Chicago was done, but the band brought in Champlin, and a wave of hit singles followed, including songs like Look Away and You're Not Alone, in which Bill sang lead.

Now, 28 years after joining Chicago, giving up a promising solo career that came on the heels of eight albums with the great Marin County band Sons of Champlin (who played in Holt Arena in 1973 doncha know), Bill is no longer with Chicago, having been replaced for the remainder of the 2009 summer tour by Lou Pardini, who is now officially in the group.

If you are still reading this, you might be going....Bill Champlin? Who the hell is that? This is Bill Champlin at his best, reworking the power ballad Look Away (the Billboard #1 song of 1988) into an unreal acoustic piece. Well, in this overbloated age in which Lady GaGa is a star, and Britney Spears churns out horrendous garbage that qualifies as a hit song, Bill is a musician. Actually, a musician's musician.

Bill has a pair of Grammies to his credit for writing Turn Your Love Around, which was a monster smash for George Benson (here is George singing it live in Madrid, and here is Bill's take while performing live on German television) and After the Love is Gone, which was an even-bigger hit for Earth, Wind, and Fire (Here is Earth, Wind and Fire singing it live, here is Bill singing it with EWF on tour in 2004, and this is such a rare version from Thicke of the Night back in 1983 which is the only performance with all three writers, Champlin, Jay Graydon, and David Foster).

Bill got his start with his own band the Sons of Champlin (originally the Opposite Six), who had eight ridiculously fun and tight albums, and came out of Marin County and the great San Francisco scene, but somehow they never hit it big...perhaps SoC was a little too R&B with their upfront horns and musicianship. Still their songs are amazing, such as You, 1982-A from their debut album Loosen of Naturally, and even seeing video from a few years ago of the band performing at the Palms in Vegas is a treat.

From there, Bill ended up as the most in-demand guy in the music industry, performing on albums and CDs for Boz Skaggs, REO Speedwagon, Amy Grant ... anyone and everyone. Then he put out two solo CDs, Single and Runaway, which featured songs such as Fly with Me and Keys to the Kingdom. Runaway featured songs like Tonight, Tonight and Take It Uptown, which was from the movie Copper Mountain (Jim Carrey's first movie).

Bill then joined Chicago, and in recent years the band has featured him prominently in concert with a special medley of some of his vocals, including a great introduction where he got to showcase a little of his talents. Still, Bill put solo stuff out from time to time, such as No Wasted Moments (one of my favorite CDs ever). Even his unreleased Chicago stuff is better than most music out now or then.

How does any of this relate to me other than as a fan you ask? Well, way back when, after I had accumulated all the Chicago stuff I could, I decided to get the solo stuff from folks, and naturally, I was trying to figure out how to get Champlin stuff, as it's just not readily available at Wal-Mart. Well, Bill had a website to sell his CDs, and there was a link to "ask Bill". So I asked which one would he recommend...figuring he had like a flunky answering, but I actually got a nice note back, and just by reading it, you could tell it was from him. I ended up buying two, and over the course of the next year or so, I got pretty much everything, and he and I started emailing a bit. Eventually, he gave me his home address so I could send a CD cover for him to sign, and we finally met in 1999 in Boise after a show (he left my friend Doug and I a pass to wait afterwards and meet up).

Bill also offered my family and I tickets to the Stadium of Fire July 4 show in Salt Lake, and I passed because I wasn't going to be there due to that being my daughter's birthday. I then somehow not only ended up there, but in a meet and greet, where he was baffled to see me and gave me a bear hug, and then took time to talk to my kids and stuff, which was funny just to see their faces.

Cut to this week, and Bill's newest CD "No Place Left to Fall" hit stores on August 4 (it had been out on iTunes for a while and I've had it pretty much since it was available for download there) and it is getting rave reviews. From start to finish, it is an amazing of those CDs that you need to listen to over and over to catch the little musical nuances that let's face it, you don't get with Lady GaGa or Britney Spears or T-Pain. You can catch a little of the title track here with Bill talking about it, but right now my favorites are a funky little number called Tuggin' on Your Sleeve, the title track, and Stone Cold Hollywood.

It sucks that after 28 years, Bill is out, but he is going on a short little club tour of the West Coast from San Diego to Seattle. So here is my imploration to you guys, because I never try to steer anyone wrong, but check those dates out, and if you can make it to a show ... don't think about it, just go. You will never see a better musician surrounded by other unbelievable musicians as you will if you catch one of Bill's shows (I believe he has Jerry Lopez joining him on guitar, who is a monster on his own). Seriously, you will not be sorry, and knowing Bill, he will just hang after the show for a while and tell stories and make it a night to remember.

Anyways, I know plenty of famous people, mostly pro athletes, but this was weird to hear news like this about someone I know have great respect for. Sure, Matt Gutierrez got cut from the Patriots and I know him, but this is inherently different. Bill is a great guy who will always make the best of a situation, but if you want to treat yourself, pick up this CD, or see his show. You just won't be sorry about it.

OK, now back to ISU....thanks for hangin' in there...

How's the BBQ?
Matt Gutierrez did get cut by the Patriots, and then got promptly picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs, and guess who threw the only offensive touchdown in KC's intersquad scrimmage? That would be Matt.

Thumbs Up!
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives out a thumbs up to our very own Evan Dietrich-Smith. When the paper calls you "almost impossible to beat" and says that you "dominated one-on-one pass rushing drills", well, that can only mean good things. By the way, this should surprise no one. Evan is a gamer.

Outjumping Steve Smith
Scroll down a little here to see D.J. Clark picking off a pass outleaping Steve Smith.

Getting His Big Chance
Did you know that New Orleans Saints defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith (not that Will Smith, this Will Smith) are out for the first four games? Jeff Charleston does, and the former Bengal is making big waves at Saints camp as he projects to be a starter.

Good Hands
Scroll down and get to picture number five to see Pago in action for the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals.

And last but not least, good ol' Jared
The media just loves Jared Allen...he's not a bad quote. He talked here about the end of Vikings camp, and pretty soon he will be featured on Cribs and in Maxim. Be warned. Of course, he is kid accessable, as this report from CBS/Fox 12 in Mankato shows.

Bengal Links
Boise State East....or so it seems, but Kelvin Ang had a nice story regarding ISU's four Broncos who have made a home here at ISU. Kelvin also notes that after a spring in which Benny Laporta was the only running back, there is a little more competition there in the fall, including this guy, but not this guy. Also, Tim Flagstad reported on the volleyball teams' return to practice, and yes, there are 18 of them. Go Bengals...and Bill!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your favorite band!! i didn't know about that!!!
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