This 2014 three-fer contains Loosen Up Naturally, The Sons, and Follow Your Heart, the albums the Sons of Champlin recorded between 1969 and 1971. These are also the Sons' first three albums and it's possible to hear them stretch out with each subsequent record, deepening their grooves, highlighting their jazz inflections, and eventually folding in a rather smooth, sun-kissed gloss. Unlike many of their San Franciscan brethren, they weren't particularly hard-edged or Dionysian: they had a stronger sense of soul and rhythm, they reveled in feel over texture. This can mean that all three of these records meander a bit – songwriting wasn't a Sons specialty – but there's an open-hearted attitude to the trinity that remains appealing.
The Sons of Champlin released three albums on Capitol Records between 1969 and 1971 (Loosen Up Naturally, The Sons, and Follow Your Heart), none of which was a commercial hit for various reasons, but not for lack of musical quality. This 78-minute CD makes a reasonable selection of the highlights from those LPs, demonstrating that at their best, the Sons were a collection of talented musicians who packed their songs full of good solos that grew out of complicated arrangements. Although they were a part of the psychedelic San Francisco scene of the time, their music never quite fit the mold, leaning much more toward jazz and R&B than, say, the Grateful Dead. the Sons played instruments including saxophones and a vibraphone, not otherwise typical of the San Francisco Sound, and they were less interested in songs than in creating platforms for soloing. They might start a tune like "Love of a Woman" as a gentle, romantic ballad with an acoustic guitar, but midway through that would suddenly give way to a jazzy instrumental section in a different time signature, return to the ballad, then again go off into jazz.