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Champlin/Williams/Friestedt | CWF

by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Sr. Columnist —

cwf-coverYou might have missed their Live In Concert release. Perhaps you were also not able to travel to Scandinavia to catch them somewhere during the sold out tour back in 2012. But still you’re familiar with the musicians behind the Champlin/Williams/Friestedt project – well, at least the two of them… The name of guitarist, producer and recording artist Peter Friestedt as well as his solo offerings LA Project and LA Project II might be recognized largely by the fans of AOR. However, you don’t have to be the particularly staunch aficionado of the genre to have ever heard of bands such as Toto and Chicago the two singers come from. The unique collaboration between the three musicians continues – their joined forces having recently resulted in a brand new studio album simply titled CWF.

With Peter Friestedt, Joseph Williams and Bill Champlin on board, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise the CWF album is tasty, classy late ‘70s – ‘80s AOR/Westcoast all over. The seasoned three-piece brings the listener to the pre-Sunset Strip, pre-‘80s Glam Metal era when it was all about bands like Toto, Chicago, REO Speedwagon or Styx. Although tried and tested, the formula is apparently far from being worn out – as proven by the album’s opening track “Runaway”. A polished, melodic mid-tempo driven by the mellow keyboard sound is not only the proper introduction to CWF but, in a broader sense, its quintessence.

More Westcoast-tinged “Aria” continues with its richness of excellent vocal harmonies and percussion outro. Even those not eager to draw comparisons between one album and another may not resist the temptation of thinking back to the Toto’s Fahrenheit/The Seventh One era here. And it’s surely not only because of Steve Porcaro’s guest performance. Next is the emotionally charged ballad “Still Around,” built around a charming piano theme. “All That I Want” is mellow verses contrasted with big choruses, all building up to the fiery guitar solo. Another dose of impeccable vocal harmonies is the fifth song “Carry On” (its outro for some reason similar to this of “Aria”), its follow-up “Nightfly” bringing the brass section and soul/funky-ish flavors in. Intertwining ballad-esque passages with melodic choruses, “Hearts At War” is another classic AOR piece harkening back to the era when such ruled the radio airwaves. Lazy, a bit jazzy rendition of the Champlin co-penned classic “After The Love Is Gone” precedes “Rivers Of Fear” – which, surprisingly, is sung a’capella and based entirely on the vocal harmonies and the “dialogues” between the singers. “Evermore” is the tenth song and also the last one, showing certainly more traditional and genre-typical approach than its predecessor but at the same time, constituting a neat ballad-esque final to the CWF album.

With just a few songs on the album deviating from the AOR/Westcoast path with more bold arrangements and sometimes surprising formulas, it can be said CWF is largely a testimony to the classic AOR/Westcoast sound. Obviously, it’s also a testimony to the collective experience and excellence of all musicians involved. The particular strength of the material is, obviously, the perfectly crafted vocal parts and harmonies – which is no surprise in the presence of the dynamic duo of Joseph Williams and Bill Champlin, one of the best singers of their genre. But even though AOR is sometimes associated with sugary, pompous choruses and pretentious catchiness to it – it’s not the case. CWF is simply a mature, well-balanced offering from the musicians who know their craft as no one else.

Genre: Lite AOR, Westcoast

Bill Champlin – lead & backing vocals, piano, Hammond organ
Joseph Williams – lead & backing vocals
Peter Friestedt – electric & acoustic guitars

Steve Porcaro – keyboard solo (track 2)
Randy Goodrum – piano (track 10)
Tamara Champlin – backing vocals (tracks 6,7)
Will Champlin – lead vocals (tracks 8,9)
Per Lindvall – drums, percussion
Johan Granstrom – bass
Ingmar Aberg – piano, keyboards, programming
Lars Safsund – backing vocals (tracks 1,5)
Stefan Gunnarsson – piano, keyboards (tracks 6,7)
Herman Matthews – drums (track 7)
Jon Willy Rydningen – piano, keyboards (track 2)
Erik Andre Rydningen – drums (track 2)
Lars Erik Dahle – bass (track 5)
Janne Peltoniemi – piano (track 5)
Alessandro Del Vecchio – keyboards (track 1)
Jonathan Fritzen – keyboards (track 10)
Jonas Wall – saxophone
Andreas Andersson – saxophone
Jonas Lindeborg – trumpet

Track List:
1. Runaway
2. Aria
3. Still Around
4. All That I Want
5. Carry On
6. Nightfly
7. Hearts At War
8. After The Love Has Gone
9. Rivers Of Fear
10. Evermore

Label: AOR Heaven


Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10


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