LOOSE MUSIC June 30, 2017
Danny Wilson’s sixth studio album with his Champions Of The World is a double, a massive eighteen tracks and not too long. Of course, he had albums before the Champs, with under-rated fan favourites, Grand Drive, but since then he has pursued his personal vision of a warm country-soul-rock from the East London Delta. It’s not an original idea and he treads in the sizeable footsteps of Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven, etc but Danny does it so well and in a gentler, more swinging soulful way (maybe it’s the horns). Personally very driven and focussing his attention on reaching the heart, Danny’s last album won the UK Americana award, despite its London origins and the last few years moving away from what you’d tag as Americana.
A seven piece, the current line-up of the Champs makes a lovely sound and plays magnetic live shows. It is that warm sound that sustains the album over eighteen tracks and makes it a loving embrace of a set. He’s been a bit indulgent, has Danny. Instead of paring his shortlist down to a single album, he’s chosen to shows us all what he’s thinking at the moment: a mix of love, loss, nostalgia, bravado, regret and passion. Wilson says the set is: “a bit like taking a peek into somebody’s house, there’s great stuff that immediately grabs your attention and then there’s other stuff and you start out thinking it might be a bit mundane, but as the whole picture takes shape it proves to be incredibly beautiful”.
This album was recorded over the space of a year, using monthly recording dates as deadlines to finish songs, rather than the previous approach of Danny bringing songs, locking the band in a studio and knocking a record out in one epic push. This method made for a lot of collaboration and all but one of the songs are written by Danny and someone else, usually one or more other band members. The songs remain as strong as ever and outside collaborators include legendary Yorkshire songwriter James Yorkston.
The sound remains as warm as ever, using the classic material of a soul- Americana band: pedal steel, keys, drums, sax, horns. He covers all the bases: Waiting For The Right Time is the single and insistent with it, Bring Me To My Knees is sweet and lovelorn, Consider Me is Southern Boogie with a funky tone and Allman Brothers-esque guitar solo. Gotta Get Things Right In My Life adopts a vocal line reminiscent of Neil Young circa Harvest, Everything We Need has the style of The Band, Let The Water Wash Over You also has a seventies Americana feel and Long Distance Tears features a funky keyboard figure and horns for a funky The Band / Dr John feel. This is such a big collection that it is best explored in one run, over eighty minutes, covering the range from punchy soul to mournful country lament to lyric rock to the odd funky moment. Comparisons to The Band or Neil Young are well-deserved. There are emotional ups and downs, tales of desperate love, stories of battles won and overall, an innate optimism. What’s more, the band are allowed, as they do live, to run with some of the songs and stretch out with a bit of jamming, adding to the organic feel.
A very welcome release but do check out the 2014 album, Live Champs, too.