Chicago’s Bill Champlin and Toto’s Joseph Williams – Live in Concert (2013)

Though neither has recently recorded with the groups that made them superstars, Joseph Williams and Bill Champlin remain inextricably linked to Toto and Chicago, respectively, both on tour and in our collective consciousness.

This new concert recording, which gives a headliner nod to guitarist Peter Friestedt as well, offers an opportunity to relive some of those musical memories, even as it rounds out the singers’ respective legacies away from those hitmaking bands. For instance, “Take It Uptown” and the closing “Satisfaction,” both from a pre-Chicago 1981 Runaway solo album, find Champlin howling with undiminished power.

Live in Concert album opens with a take on the David Paich co-written “Goin’ Home,” one of two Toto-related cuts, as Williams and Champlin begin trading back and forth — with each song a resonant moment in time. “After the Love is Gone,” a Grammy-winning Champlin song that became a huge hit for Earth Wind and Fire, is given an oaken, deeply emotional reworking. If there is song from his solo career that connects the dots with Champlin’s chart-topping career with Chicago, this is it.

“Where to Touch You” offers those who missed it a chance to sample Williams’ 2011 collaboration with Friestedt, simply called Williams Freistedt. Champlin, Williams and the guitarist had earlier worked together on 2010′s The LA Project, as well. Their take on “Turn Your Love Around,” a Champlin hit for George Benson, breaks out of the original’s blueprint with a few well-placed whiskey-soaked scats.

As on Champlin’s deeply underrated 2009 album No Place Left to Fall, the former Chicago No. 1 hit “Look Away” is given new life as a raw, stripped-down acoustic number — with Williams joining in on the achingly sad chorus. They then throw themselves completely into a muscular reading of “This Fall,” a Williams solo tune co-written by Toto’s Steve Lukather.

Williams was part of four Toto albums, 1986′s Fahrenheit, 1988′s The Seventh One, 1998′s Toto XX and 2006′s Falling in Between. He has since re-joined the touring edition of Toto, which retakes the road for a series of shows this summer. Champlin, who split with Chicago in 2008, was featured on the albums 16 through XXX.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • cyril

    This should be in your sucked column.. singing,, my goat sings more in tune than these guys .