Review by John Apice
Roger Chapman – Life In the Pond
It can be strange; can be an eye-opener to hear a vintage rock voice from the past emerge decades later & still have something to say. Well, that can be dismissed as professionalism, skill & ingenuity. Many of these artists have songs wrongly allocated, old-fashioned music trying to capture a decade long gone. Many have tried & failed, but Roger Chapman?
Like Eric Burdon whose solo work has been commendable, England’s Roger “Chappo” Chapman (former vocals with Family, & Streetwalkers) met with some success but was never as well known as say, Rod Stewart. Nonetheless, Chapman has a presence. His voice is not quite Long John Baldry but he’s in that stratosphere. I like the way he presents himself – he has a smoky vocal, a Ray Charles cum Georgie Fame.
“Playtime Is Over,” is cool. At least the 79-year-old Chapman isn’t singing about sweet little 16-year-old girls like poor Chuck Berry in his octogenarian years. “Nightmare #5” & “Collar Turned Up,” qualify as a mature rocker’s territory. Roger puts both over ballsy. Nice horns added. At it since 1966, Chapman doesn’t sound his age, but as an elder statesman of the genre.
Had he a more luck his vocals should’ve been as memorable as Gary Brooker’s (Procol Harum), Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, or Eric Burdon. But many don’t remember since they were on the fringe of rock music & preferred to buy sports memorabilia than listen to tunes.
At this point, I’d have Chapman do more songs with lyrical stories like Chuck E Weiss, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen. The real-life rawness would suit him. The band is excellent. His first studio LP in 12-years, Life In the Pond (Ruf Records-Drops June 25) has 11-cuts designed to be nostalgic & innovative at the same time. “Rabbit Got the Gun,” is funky in an early 70s style but it’s Chapman’s whiskey-soaked vocals that are the magic potion. He has power & authority in his showcase & is definitely not going through the motions to recapture past glory. Spurts of blues harmonica sweeten the dynamic.
Roger must select his songs with extra care, as he’s done here. “After the Rain,” is strong. Roger’s a former rocker with expertise, his style has rusted slightly but remains something the musical sun can reflect & sparkle off. I find the songs engaging & the possibility that Roger may have many good years ahead of him seems reasonable. The voice projects unmarked by age. 79-year-old men don’t sing this cool.
Procol Harum guitarist Geoff Whitehorn is noticeable as a guest guitarist. A cover of the old Al Wilson hit “The Snake,” (written by Oscar Brown) has renewed venom. “On Lavender Heights,” Roger does a typical English type ballad with a lovely nostalgic melody – reminiscent of the late Gordon Haskell or Clifford T Ward.
Produced by ex-Family multi-instrumentalist/co-writer John “Poli” Palmer. Available @ Amazon & http://www.lakepipewebdesign.co.uk/Chappo/