Bill Champlin - guitar, keyboards, lead vocals; Terry Haggerty - guitar, vocals; Geoff Palmer - keyboards, vocals; Dave Schallock - bass, vocals; James Preston - drums, percussion; Phil Wood - trumpet; Michael Andreas- sax; Steve Frediani - sax
Opening a hometown bill that also featured the Keith & Donna Godchaux Band and Kingfish, The Sons of Champlin set the bar at an astonishingly high level to begin the night. Delivering a set of their unique psychadelicized soul-funk, this captures the band shortly after the release of A Circle Filled With Love and the re-release of their self titled album, recorded during 1974 in their home studio and originally released on their own label, Goldmine Records. This new album and the previous independently released album had been purchased and released by Ariola America, at a time when the band was again unsigned and struggling to survive. This began a promising rebirth for the group and this performance features the newly expanded horn section as well as reflecting their enthusiasm and energy at this moment in time. The entire band is in great form here, particularly Terry Haggerty, who peals off scorching hot guitar solos in nearly every song and is blazing with energy throughout this performance.
They kick it off with "Slippery When It's Wet," a standout track from A Circle Filled With Love album. Bill Champlin's wildly enthusiastic vocal, a blazing guitar run from Haggerty, and the punch of the horn section immediately engages the audience, who are up and dancing by the end of the first song. The not yet recorded "Saved By The Grace Of Your Love" follows. This soulful number has the entire group cooking and would soon become the leadoff track on their next album. The soulful ballad, "For A While" returns to the latest album material before they tackle the funky foot-stomping rocker "There Goes Your All Night," featuring outstanding organ work and another chunky solo from Haggerty.
The self titled 1974 album is also well represented, first by the jazzy "Like To Get To Know You," which features tight ensemble playing and a tasty trumpet solo from Phil Wood (not to mention another from Haggerty). They also perform the irresistible "Lookout," their single at the time, with its extremely danceable vibe. Between the two is a sizzling rendition of "Slam Dunk," which from the sound of things, Haggerty can barely wait to sink his teeth into.
This all prefaces the set-closer, a pairing of "Turn On Your Lovelight" into "Gold Mine," another excellent track from the self-titled album. "Lovelight" is taken at a rapid tempo, but remains loose and grooving. Champlin foregoes singing most of the lyrics and renders most of his vocals scat style. This also serves as a launching pad for James Preston, who takes a powerful drum solo before propelling the band into "Gold Mine." This celebratory number borrows heavily from James Brown, with its funky good time vibe and features a guitar shredfest from Haggerty that is out of this world.
The audience isn't ready to let them go and demands more until the Sons return to the stage, and the band obliges with an extended encore that will delight long time fans. The Loosen Up Naturally tracks "Freedom," and "Get High," both of which were originally arranged as a three-part interplay between alto and tenor saxes and trumpet, get a full-blown workout here. What unfolds is a tour-de-force 18-minute jam that begins with the funky lyrically driven opening section of "Freedom." This manages to balance philosophical yearning with humor, as Champlin alters some of the lyrics to include "cold beer" more than once. This transitions into a loose jam featuring outstanding baritone sax work and expressive B-3 organ. Haggerty takes a truly demented, but equally irresistible solo that exemplifies why so many of his contemporaries (including Jerry Garcia) considered him the most advanced and influential guitar player out of all the San Francisco bands. This incredible jam segues directly into "Get High." This receives the improvisational treatment as well, with the band vamping and Bill Champlin rapping away in a stream-of-consciousness style, touching on smokables such as joints, Thai Sticks, and the resulting munchies to Heineken beer and Star Trek! This all adds to the party atmosphere as he engages the audience in a call and response session that launches the song proper. Another outstanding trumpet solo is included and this funky highly original rocker defines the original sound of the group, updated impressively by the current lineup. Nearly 19 minutes after it began, this remarkable encore comes to a close, setting the stage for the Keith & Donna Godchaux Band and Kingfish.