Over the past few years Danny And the Champions Of The World’s live shows have increasingly resembled a country soul revue with the band incorporating elements of Motown and Stax into their invigorating music. While in the past Blabber’n’Smoke has noted that this mix has resembled van Morrison’s Caledonia Soul years the new album, What Kind Of Love, shows that the Champs have dived head first into soul territory with horn charts and full blown female backing singers accompanying Danny Wilson’s impassioned soulful vocals. While the obvious touchstones here are the likes of Otis Redding and Solomon Burke there’s a host of other singers who have been more associated with a country influenced take on soul, singers such as Arthur Alexander, William Bell, James Carr and Eddie James and it’s to them rather than the raucous Redding shows that the songs pay homage. In addition Wilson notes that some of his favourite singers are those sixties white guys who first heard Motown discs and immediately set up their own bands and whose voices proved perfect for strained and urgent R’nB. He cites Rod Stewart, Terry Reid, Paul Rodgers, Reg King, Frankie Miller, Steve Ellis, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Chris Farlowe and Eric Burden and there’s definitely a moment here on the title song What Kind Of Love when he sounds uncannily like prime Rod Stewart. Meanwhile Precious Cargo riffs mightily and not a million years away from Farlowe’s version of Out Of Time.
The decision to go down this route is not a huge departure for the band for anyone who has heard them playing Cold Cold World or Let’s Grab This World With Both Hands but the album is an unalloyed soulful wallow with huge horn riffs and Marvelettes like choruses which are most prominent on the one cover here, a version of Tyrone Davis’ Can I Change my Mind. Paul Lush’s clipped guitar drives the song along, the horns parp and the vocal interplay between Wilson and the backing singers is the most joyous we’ve heard since Laura Nyro and Labelle’s Gonna Take a Miracle album. Towards the end of the song Henry Senior’s pedal steel carries off the spectacular task of seeming to be part of the vocal harmonies.
While there’s a nod to the “classic” sound of the Champs on Words On The Wind with guitarist Paul Lush given full rein and sax man Free George wailing away, it fits neatly into the overall scheme of the album with Wilson channelling Steve Marriott and the sha la la refrain recalling the Small Faces. However it’s the slow sashay, the soulful strut, the reverential gospel tones of songs like Just Be Yourself and It’ll Be Alright In The End that confirm that the band have nailed the notion of recording a bona fide soul album. While all ten songs are bountiful mention should be made of Wilson’s magnificent vocal performance on This Is Not A Love Song (which of course it is). Curling pedal steel, a curt and magisterial guitar break and weeping organ sweep the song along as Wilson parries with the female chorus. The album ends with another cracker, The Sound Of A Train which moves on from the churchlike sixties soul sound to the urban sophistication of the seventies with mellow saxophone and jazzy guitar styling’s. Sounding like a nighttime version of The Rascals’ Groovin’ as performed by George Benson it winds the album up wonderfully with the only regret that the fade is not much much longer.
The album is out this week and The Champs are touring this month. The Glasgow show is on 20th June at Broadcast, the others are here. In the meantime, Danny Wilson has given a song by song account of the album which is a great read, have a gander here