Thursday, October 30, 2014

Champaign - Woman in Flames

Named after their hometown in Illinois, the American R&B Champaign released their third studio album Woman in Flames thirty years ago this month. The record spent three weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 184.

The band’s roster included Pauli Carman (vocals), Michael Day (keyboards), Rocky Maffit (drums and percussion), Rena Jones (vocals), Michael Reed (bass), Leon Reeder (guitar), and Dana Walden (keyboards).

Side one opens with “Off and On Love”, the second single which scored big on the US Billboard R&B chart. The mid-tempo groove, with a steady beat and a smooth synth hook, is about a couple who is in complete control of their love, turning it off and on at a moment’s notice.

The third single was “This Time”, a ballad about a guy who has continually been put off for true intimacy by his girlfriend. He begs her to let tonight be the night.

The B-side to the third single was “Prisoner”. It opens with a cool cascading synth riff that continues as the foundation throughout. The rest of the rhythm is a down-and-dirty grinding groove.

“Intimate Strangers” was released as the lead single. Backed by a bouncy beat, a guy pines after a woman who barely knows him. The sultry saxophone solo adds to the mood of desire.

Side two starts with the raucous title track. “Woman in Flames” tells the tale of a woman who resorts to turning tricks to get her sexual kicks. She turns out to be a very dangerous woman.

The party continues with the upbeat and carefree “Mardi Gras”. The song would be right at home with DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” and Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long”.

Rena takes lead vocals on “Be Mine Tonight”, a song about love from a lady’s point of view.

The album closes on a high energy note with “Capture the Moon”. I like the guitar hooks on this one.

This was my first exposure to Woman in Flames, and I definitely liked what I heard. In the mid-80’s Champaign was recording the type of R&B music that I was very much into during my college days. This one has quickly jumped up on my to-buy list.

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