Bill Champlin has worn a lot of hats during his long career. He is a songwriter, producer, a member of Chicago plus The Sons Of Champlin, and a solo artist.
No Place Left To Fall is his first solo effort in about a decade. His musical focus during that time period has centered upon his involvement with Chicago and The Sons Of Champlin as he has continued to record and tour with both groups.
His solo albums tend to be different from his group efforts. They allow him to experiment and create music that would not really fit the style of either of his bands. The majority of tracks on this latest release tend to have a funky vocal feel while the instrumental backing is a fusion of pop/rock.
Champlin has co-produced the album with Mark Eddinger and they have done a remarkable job. It is rare to find a recording that has the clarity of this one. Each note and literally each syllable is crystal clear. He also shows a strong ability to layer the vocals which create a full and rich sound.
The CD contains thirteen tracks of which eleven were written or co-written by Champlin. One of the exceptions is the 1988 Chicago tune “Look Away” which was a number one hit for the group. He completely re-makes the song into an up-tempo acoustic track. This gives its story of love lost a new intimacy as it places the emphasis squarely on the vocal.
There are a number of other songs of note. “Total Control” has a funky beat that is propelled by his keyboards and Billy Ward’s drums which are turned up loud. “The Truth” finds him traveling in a harder rocking direction with some excellent lead guitar work by Bruce Gaitsch. “Lookin’ For You” may contain the best vocal performance as his voice floats above the background singers. “Never Been Afraid” is the only track that is close to the classic Chicago sound. It features dual vocals and builds nicely on the chorus. “Never Let Go” begins with an extended A Capella introduction presented in a do-wop style to which it returns throughout the course of the song.
The accompanying DVD provides an excellent documentary about the creation of the album although as such it may be of interest only once or twice. The most interesting bonus is a live performance by his Sons Of Champlin. All in all it is the CD and not the DVD that is the core of this release.
No Place Left To Fall proves that Bill Champlin can still produce good music on his own. It is an interesting and smooth flowing affair that provides a good listening experience.