Label: Black Lodge Records Release Date: 15-05-2020
Champlin Williams Friestedt, humble mini supergroup, is comprised of the very men whom it is named after. Bill Champlin is a vocalist and producer who embarked on a very successful solo career during and after his time performing vocals in jazz rock band Chicago. Joseph Williams is a vocalist and film score composer who is perhaps equally famous for his role as the vocalist of Toto as he is for the vocals he lent to adult Simba in Disney’s The Lion King. While Champlin and Williams are both California-born, guitarist and producer Peter Friestedt hails from Strömstad, Sweden, and has a series of solo projects inspired by the California scene and the musician friends he made while studying at the Los Angeles Music Academy (LAMA).
Champlin and Williams have brushed shoulders many times during their time in Chicago and Toto, respectively, and Williams has even supplied guest vocal work for Chicago. Meanwhile, Champlin and Friestedt quickly became business partners soon after Friestedt graduated from LAMA, and both Champlin and Williams have provided vocals for Friestedt’s album The LA Project. Williams and Friestedt continued their partnership for multiple solo albums, eventually convincing Champlin to join in and finally turning the duo into a trio. In 2013, Champlin Williams Friestedt recorded a live album and in 2015, they released their first full album, self-titled as CWF. In 2018, they followed up with the release of the 10 Miles EP. This year is their newest release, the untitled sequel to the first album, referred to as either CFW II or simply II.
The album opens with Runaway Dancer, an upbeat love song that very successfully displays the talents and harmonies of both Champlin and Williams with the assistance of guest vocalist Lars Säfsund, Friestedt playing through with classically cheesy but cool guitar riffs. Next is 10 Miles, a track previously released on the eponymous 10 Miles EP. Slower and more relaxing in tone than the previous track, there is plenty of room for Champlin and Williams to belt out this catchy tune that deserves a swaying audience doing a Candles in the Rain salute. Following this is another previously released single, Love in the World. Featuring guest vocals from Michael McDonald (Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers) and Tamara Champlin, solo artist and Bill Champlin’s spouse, this is a low-toned, cozy, and somewhat bluesy track that almost assuredly will be some lucky couple’s song played at their wedding. Also previously heard on the 10 Miles EP, Amandas Disguise takes a break from the mutual romance of the previous and instead tells the story of a person pining for the girl they can’t have but seem to see everywhere. Champlin and Williams’ passionate singing is aided by guest work from Grammy-winning session drummer and solo artist John JR Robinson, and gospel singer Frank Ådahl (who, like Williams, rather ironically played adult Simba in The Lion King, albeit the Swedish version). It’s back to the slow and jazzy romance with Between the Lines, another single released prior to the album. This track is a definite standout among the rest, its feel-good vibes carried along with Champlin and Williams’ perfect harmonies, soft horns playing underneath before Friestedt’s guitar explodes onto the scene, the whole thing a brilliant composition.
The second half of the album begins with Look Away, an anti-love song about living with heartbreak after a breakup whose hopeful sound belies the sad content of its lyrics. Friestedt brings it all home with a plaintive and classy solo that plays out during the latter third of the track. All That I Want is rather slow and quiet with a slightly strange rhythm but has bursts of energy throughout during the catchy chorus, making it somewhat weak but good for a background tune. Restless Love continues the trend of peculiar energy, the melody bird-like and a bit hard to follow, and with a focus more on background vocals than Friestedt’s guitar. It’s definitely not a bad song, but it does seem quite out of place compared to the other, more tightly composed tracks on the album. After this, Price of Love rolls in with a lot more of a jazzy sound than most of the previous tracks. Champlin and Williams immediately take a backseat as the lead vocals for this song are that of (presumably) Tamara Champlin whose raspy voice sits itself firmly between classic rock and country, carrying the song magnificently even without the aid of backup vocals. The last song on the album is Sometimes You Win, a song that falls between love and anti-love, accepting that some relationships just aren’t made to last. Assisted by jazz pianist Randy Goodrum and jazz vocalist Bill Cantos, Friestedt truly shines on this track behind Champlin’s loving tones and Williams’ emotional cries. It is almost sad how short this track is as it, like the relationship it is about, doesn’t feel like it lived up to its full potential, but only just enough to feel a sense of longing.
Bill Champlin, Joseph Williams, and Peter Friestedt all have very impressive and noteworthy careers, supplying vocals or instrumental work across bands and genres for decades. Alone, each have their own unique styles but together, the three make a marvelous trio that blends their talents into a new yet familiar sound that is as modern as it is nostalgic. Champlin Williams Friestedt is a warm and comforting band to get into and their newest release, II, is a very welcoming gift to ease the heart during times that are rough.
- Bill Champlin – Vocals, keyboards, organ, acoustic guitar
- Joseph Williams – Vocals
- Peter Friestedt – Lead/rhythm and acoustic guitars
- Runaway Dancer
- 10 Miles
- Love in the World
- Amandas Disguise
- Between the Lines
- Look Away
- All That I Want
- Restless Love
- Price of Love
- Sometimes You Win