When Champaign burst on the scene in 1981, it appeared to be a group that was going to be around for quite awhile. With strong lead vocalists Pauli Carman and Rene Jones (not to be confused with the Atlanta-based indie soul singer Rene Jones), great production by Leo Graham, and a crossover smash hit in "How 'Bout Us," the group's debut album won critical acclaim and sold well. It was a wonderful debut -- one of the best complete albums of that year. Unfortunately, that debut album would be the commercial high point for the group.

    Though highly anticipated, their next album, Modern Heart, was not nearly as strong as its predecessor and spawned only a minor charter with the ballad "Try Again." There were some other hidden gems on the disc (especially the acappella cut "Walkin;") but it exited the charts almost as quickly as it arrived. The group's third disc, Woman in Flames, fared even worse, and was generally ignored despite a couple nice radio cuts, "Off And On Love" and "This Time." Champaign's early albums are well represented by a 2004 greatest hits album.

    Lead singer Pauli Carman left in 1985 for a brief solo career and landed a moderate dance hit with "Dial My Number." He and the group reunited in 1991 for the album Champaign IV on, of all things, the Malaco blues label. It barely dented the charts, despite having a number of solid cuts.  

    Champaign reunited sporadically during the 90s for local shows and also made some contemporary Christian music. Carman moved to Hong Kong, where he continued to perform Champaign hits before moving back to Illinois and rejoining the group in 2000. Champaign performed again until the  death of group member Michael Day (Jones' husband) of cancer in 2001. Pauli Carman now works in the field of education by day and continues to record and perform with his own Pauli Carman and Champaign. In 2008, he released a new album, Carma, under the group moniker.  It can be heard by clicking here.

    A reconfigured Champaign, with Carmen at the lead, released the single "Share" in 2011 and signed with StarPointe Records. The group is planning an album tentatively titled The Kind to be released in 2012.

    By Chris Rizik