It's been fifteen years since Eric Champion released his self-titled debut on Myrrh Records. Sort of a prince of Christian contemporary pop in the early nineties, Champion was known for often thinking outside the box, even completely changing his image with a "forget what you know" approach in 1996. Mixing rock and electronic elements for a rather unique style, the aptly titled Transformation marked the start of greater things from Champion. But shortly following his 1998 follow up Natural, Champion sort of disappeared from the CCM scene, taking up a teaching position at a school for the arts named Full Sail in Winter Park, Florida. In 2004, Champion teamed up with a few colleagues from Full Sail to form Luminous Art Media, and new music was quickly in the works.
The Unexpected EP is an ironically titled project. While named after the project's lead-off track, it dually applies to Champion's modest return to music. The four-song project is merely a sampler of more to come, but adequately whets the listener's appetite. Thematically focusing more on relationships than spiritual matters, Unexpected EP opens with the title song, a synth-driven and hauntingly catchy Champion vehicle. Stylistically, the material on Unexpected is tamer than his later-nineties work, but more modern and matured than his earlier pop efforts. A healthy blend of synthetic effects, wonderful harmonies, and live instruments, the result is a solid concoction that makes up most of the EP. "Take Messages" is a beautiful ballad about the contemplations of life's changes, while "It Came To Me" is an upbeat, organ-glazed rock song about God's revelations. Unexpected closes with the darker "Serious," another project highlight that bears familiar pop elements wrapped together in a fresh package. The EP is a tight four-song composition, with its only flaw being a slightly less-than-crisp production. While it's not enough to damage the listening experience, the project would indeed have benefited from a more punched-up sound to give it the stronger presentation it deserves.
Unexpected EP is a long overdue reintroduction of a great artist to the music scene. It's a joy to have Eric Champion back to making great new music, and I can only anticipate a new full release with much excitement.- Review date: 5/15/05, written by John DiBiase
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