If there was any voice in CCM in the early nineties that was known for crafting unique Brit-flavored soulful electronic pop, it was the young Eric Champion. In 1994, Champion released the eccentric concept album Vertical Reality, a bizarre but well-crafted collection of pop songs inspired by the idea of rebelling against a fictional futuristic, God-less society. Two years later, Champion caused heads to spin when he reinvented himself as the face of pop/rock with an edgy, cranked-up album named Transformation.
"Forget what you know" was the slogan Essential Records plastered across anything that had featured the newly scruffy-faced former pop singer's image. Transformation was new, fresh, and adventurous - something Champion would discover wasn't as easily embraced as hoped. However, this album became a favorite in my CD library and it still holds up a decade later.
"Dress Me Up" kicked off the frenzy of electronic beeps and boops that were inspiringly strung together by raw and fuzzy guitars, only to be topped off with Champion's passionate vocal delivery. Catchy was an understatement, and this is something that carried throughout the remainder of the album. The title track felt as if it were lifted out of a serial horror film, refaced and remixed for the rock-lover's enjoyment. The song summed up the essence of the project - discussing a life changed by the love of Christ, and the birth of a new beginning for Champion musically. And it's songs like this one where live drum tracks, samples, and a multi-layered presentation just seemed to work perfectly. The mixing of elements is what helped solidify the project as a bold, daring, and original creation.
It may seem like this is an all-out rant of praise, but it's seldom you find a record that withstands the test of time. "Life Form" is a decidedly more restrained addition to the tracklist, slowing the project down to inject a ballad that fits well within the context of Champion's new territory. "What's In a Name," another rock ballad, takes the experimentation further, even managing to incorporate a banjo in a way that only enhances the uniqueness of the song. "Higher" picks up where the title track left off, gradually fading in before tearing into a drum-driven anthem. "Sparkle In Your Beat" adds to the list of highlights with another textured electronic rock anthem about reflecting Christ in our lives. "Droppin' Nova" is a smooth, laid back, bass-driven track that is followed by the deliciously dark and ominous emotional attack on lust, "Temptannie." By track's end, the music has reached theatrical heights as Champion's vocals passionately rebuke temptation. "Falling" and the closer "Until I Get My Way" are quirky, funky inclusions that sandwich the bizarre ugly duckling "Every Heartbeat." What made Champion recreate Amy Grant's famous pop love song as a ferocious and silly punk track is beyond me, but it's a fun addition to the project nonetheless. The only downside, however, is the stylistic venture is a near misstep as it sidetracks from the vibe of the rest of the album.
While many have sadly forgotten Champion due to his more independent presence in the industry today, his music should not be so quickly overlooked. For the naysayers who have thought that very little originality has ever made its way out of the CCM market, Eric Champion's Transformation is proof of just the opposite. Those who like their pop/rock more moody and a little on the well-done side, will definitely want to dip into the past to discover this unforgettable album.- Review date: 7/21/06, written by John DiBiase
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