May 12, 2020 Champlin Williams Friestedt – II (Album Review)
The term supergroup is often used to describe a collective of musicians who have earned accomplishments elsewhere, but join forces for something new. Sometimes effective, but other times a disappointment, if anything, it shows that talent/skill is only a portion of the equation for success. That in mind, Champlin Williams Friestedt makes a case for one of the stronger conglomerates to come together in recent years.
Some might say, “What in the world is Champlin Williams Friestedt?” The answer – former Chicago Singer Bill Champlin, TOTO Singer Joseph Williams, and Swedish Guitarist/Producer Peter Friestedt. Added to that explanation, those with a more casual outlook toward music, Champlin was a key component in Chicago’s resurgence in the 1980s and the lead voice behind their most successful single “Look Away.” This is not to mention he co-penned “After The Love Has Gone” for Earth, Wind & Fire and “Turn Your Love Around” for George Benson, among many other songs. Then there is Williams who fronted TOTO from 1986 to 1988, and again from 2010 to 2019. Finally, you have Peter Friestedt, an accomplished musician/producer who has worked with Champlin on various other occasions.
A project that came together some time ago, together they released a live concert DVD in 2014, their debut album CWF in 2015, as well as the 10 Miles EP in 2018. Quietly finding success as a cohesive unit, but all busy with other projects – Williams wrapping up the final studio album with TOTO in 2018 and Champlin touring/writing his own material – they have finally reassembled to put together their new album, II.
II, set for release on Friday, May 15th, 2020 via Black Lodge Records, is a collection of ten invigorating songs recorded by the trio. Assuming you have no prior knowledge of their previous material, the best way to describe II is an album of well-composed, melodic, soft Rock-n-Roll. Better yet, if you were a fan of Chicago during their resurgence years of the 1980s, you are going to love this album. This is clearly because Champlin’s voice and songwriting fingerprints are all over this material – think his Chicago sung hits like “Hard Habit to Break,” “Look Away,” and “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love.” Compelling enough for a fan of this particular era of music, add to it Williams’ voice and Friestedt’s musicality, you have a recipe for one heck of an album.
These descriptions provides, let us get right to the music which includes the upbeat heavier guitar driven opener “Runaway Dancer,” a smooth trip down the interstate with “10 Miles,” featuring the on the EP by the same title, and “All The Love In The World” featuring a delightful appearance from Michael McDonald. Then you have the bright soundtrack-esque “Amanda’s Disguise,” also on the 10 Miles EP, Chicago tingling “Between The Lines,” and the heartfelt anthemic “All That I Want.” Further peaking your interest, there is the equally touching “Restless Love,” larger than life “Price of Love” with vocals from Tamara Champlin, along with a balanced Champlin-Williams vocal attack on closer “Sometimes You Win.” This is not to mention in between it all there is a fantastic re-imagined version of “Look Away.”
Overall, II is an album that captures everything you loved about the softer melodic Rock music that was prevalent in the 1980s. This is not to say its sound is dated… because how can classic songwriting and stellar production ever be? That is why II is a timeless, silky smooth album that you will want to listen to over and over again. For this, Cryptic Rock gives it 5 out of 5 stars.