MICHAEL CHAPMAN-PLAYING GUITAR THE EASY WAY.
MICHAEL CHAPMAN-PLAYING GUITAR THE EASY WAY.
Nine years after releasing his debut album Rainmaker, on Harvest Records, Michael Chapman released Playing Guitar The Easy Way which has just been released on CD for the first time by Light In The Attic Records. This is no ordinary reissue. Far from it. It’s a no expense spared reissue. Light In The Attic have faithfully recreated the sleeve-notes. They’ve also taken Michael Chapman’s own tapes and remastered them at 24bit/96kHz. All this results in what’s best described as a luxurious and lovingly compiled reissue of Playing Guitar The Easy Way. It was very different album from the ten albums Michael had released.
Many people looking at Playing Guitar The Easy Way might mistake it for an album about how to play the guitar. It’s not. Playing Guitar The Easy Way was tenth album, but it had some secrets within its sleeve-notes.
The idea behind Playing Guitar The Easy Way was to make life easier for aspiring guitar players. So, in the sleeve-notes, Michael includes a series of practical tips. Michael makes it clear that this isn’t an instruction book. No. It’s just a series of handy hints that will make life easier for experienced guitar players. Each song has its own handy hint. They’re all explained concisely. No matter whether you’ve been playing six weeks or six years, there’s something that will help you. That’s not all.
For hardcore Michael Chapman fans, there’s even a list of tunings for many of Michael’s songs. So, say you’d like to cover Goodbye To Monday Night, the tuning is DADGBE. If Wrecked Again is one of your favourite Michael Chapman song, then the tuning is also DADGBE. However, what makes the release of Playing Guitar The Easy Way so special is it’s the first time this famous album has been released on CD. Released originally in 1978, a lot had happened to Michael Chapman.
Before releasing his 1969 debut album Rainmaker, on Harvest Records, Michael Chapman taught art and photography. Music was something he did in his spare time. Despite being a part time musician, Michael was a regular on the folk circuit. He traveled from his home county of Yorkshire down to London and Cornwall. It wasn’t until 1967, that Michael Chapman was “discovered.” Two years later, he released his debut album. This was the first of four albums Michael Chapman released on Harvest.
Harvest Records, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, was home to Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers, Third Ear Band and Deep Purple. Michael Chapman found himself in illustrious company. Here were some of the most progressive musicians of the late-sixties. Michael was well thought of. Executives at Harvest thought Michael had a big future. They brought in Gus Dudgeon to produce Rainmaker, Michael’s 1969 album. On its release, Rainmaker was released to critical acclaim. A cut above mainstream British folk, Rainmaker showcased Michael’s skill as a songwriter, musician and singer. Sadly, the fusion of folk, blues and rock that was Rainmaker, wasn’t a commercial success. Neither was Michael’s sophomore album Solo Guitar.
Solo Guitar was released later in 1969. Unlike Rainmaker, Solo Guitar was released on Standard Music Library. It featured nine tracks written by Michael. Released in 1969, it failed commercially. However, back at Harvest, they persisted with Michael Chapman, believing success wasn’t far away.
Fully Qualified Survivor.
Fully Qualified Survivor was Michael’s third album. Released in early 1970, Fully Qualified Survivor saw Michael focusing on strengthening his songwriting skills. He seemed to be a perfectionist. That’s no bad thing and paid off. For Fully Qualified Survivor, which like his debut album, was produced by Gus Dudgeon, Michael brought a new lead guitarist onboard. This was Mick Ronson, who’d later, make his name as David Bowie’s guitarist. A combination of some of Michael’s best songs, Gus’ production work and a guitar masterclass resulted in critics hailing Fully Qualified Survivor as a mini-masterpiece. It struck a nerve with music fans, reaching number forty-five in the UK. After the commercial success and critical acclaim Fully Qualified Survivor enjoyed, it looked like Michael Chapman was about to become one of the most successful artists of the early seventies.
That wasn’t to be. For his third album Window, producer Gus Dudgeon seemed to allow Michael more freedom. Window lyrically, was a much more eclectic album. Featuring nine songs written by Michael, Gus Dudgeon produced Window. Critically, Window divided opinion. Compared to Rainmaker and Fully Qualified Survivor, Window critics didn’t perceive as Window as progression. Neither did music fans. Window failed to chart on its release in 1970. Michael Chapman would argue that that’s no surprise.
After the release of Window, Michael disowned Window. He alleged it comprised a series of unfinished demos, which Harvest released whilst Michael was on tour. Ironically, Window, the album Michael disowned, has been have reevaluated by critics. Now it’s seen as Michael’s most underrated album. Back in 1971, after Window, Michael Chapman’s career at a crossroads. He had to get his career back on track. Would that be the case with his next album, Wrecked Again.
Wrecked Again, which features eleven songs written by Michael Chapman, saw a change in style. Often described as Michael’s “Memphis” album, the best way to describe Wrecked Again is eclectic. Everything from folk, blues, rock, country and jazz can be found within Wrecked Again, which was recorded at Rockfield Studios.
Producing Wrecked Again was Gus Dudgeon, who produced Michael’s three previous albums. Michael’s band included a rhythm section of bassist and cello bassist Rick Kemp, drummer Pique Withers and guitarist Ray Martinez. They were joined by accordionist Jack Emblow, while horns and strings were over-dubbed by Paul Buckmaster. Another addition was backing vocals which played an important part in Wrecked Again, an album that could make or break Michael Chapman’s career at Harvest Records.
When Wrecked Again was released early in 1971, it failed to chart. Despite its eclectic, all encompassing sound, music fans weren’t won over by Wrecked Again. At least critics were. They recognized Wrecked Again as a return to form from the Leeds’ born troubadour. Sadly, Harvest decided Wrecked Again would be Michael Chapman’s final album for Harvest.
After leaving Harvest, Michael signed to Decca. This became his home for the next few years. He released Millstone Grit in 1973. It was much more eclectic than some of the albums Michael had previously released. A year later, Michael returned with one of his finest albums, the hugely underrated Deal Gone Down.
Deal Gone Down.
Deal Gone Down was released in 1974. This was the followup to Millstone Grit. Critics hailed Deal Gone Down one of Michael’s finest albums. Michael Chapman was back. However, it would be another two years before Michael released another studio album.
Pleasures Of The Streets.
1975 saw Michael release his first live album, Pleasures Of The Streets. It was recorded during Michael’s tour of Europe. Pleasures Of The Streets was a tantalising taste of what Michael Chapman live sounded like. Live albums were growing in popularity during the mid-seventies. So the release of Pleasures Of The Streets saw Michael dip his toe into what was an expanding market. Maybe this would help rejuvenate Michael’s career. After all, his last album to chart was 1970s Fully Qualified Survivor.
Savage Amusement was released in 1976. This was Michael’s first studio album since 1974s Deal Gone Down. Released in 1976 on Decca, it failed to chart despite its undoubted quality. 1977s The Man Who Hated Mornings was Michael’s last album for Decca. He finished on a high. This was Michael at his mellowest. The Man Who Hated Mornings was one of the best albums Michael had released. It showed that he was capable of moments of genius. Despite this, commercial success eluded him. Worse was come, Michael and Decca parted company.
Playing Guitar The Easy Way.
Having left Decca, Michael signed to Criminal Records. His first release on Criminal Records that Michael was Playing Guitar The Easy Way. It featured twelve tracks. Eleven were written by Michael. The exception was Rockport Sunday, which was penned by Tom Rush. They were recorded by Michael at Virgin Studios.
At Virgin Studios, London, recording of Playing Guitar The Easy Way got underway. Micael played a selection of classic guitars, including a Fylde, Martin D.16, Fender Stratocaster and Gibson 175. Whether it’s six string or 12 string guitars, they’re putty in his hands. Then there’s Michael’s secret weapons. Among them are a FOXX fuzz box, MXR phase shifter, H.H. tape delay, Korg synthesiser pedal and wah way pedal. During the sessions, Keith Herd was the engineer. Michael produced Playing Guitar The Easy Way, which I’ll tell you about.
Normal Norman opens Playing Guitar The Easy Way. Just like all the tracks on the album, it begins with an open tuning. Before long, Michael is unleashing waves of bluesy guitar. Seamlessly, his hands flit up and down the fretboard. His playing seem to have matured since his 1969 debut Rainmaker. That’s apparent on Normal Norman, which showcases one of British music’s best kept secrets.
The bluesy sound continues on Revival Time. There’s similarities with the previous track. Again, it’s a reminder that Michael Chapman is one of British music’s most underrated guitarists. It doesn’t take long to realise this. Here, Michael uses the phase shifter. He makes good use of it, as the two guitars embark upon a spellbinding duel.
Muted and mellow describe Suite Mellow Dee. So does joyous. It’s two minutes of beautiful, meandering, music. Michael plays both acoustic and slide guitar. They’re a perfect foil for each other. Then towards the end of the track, the slide guitar drops out, the lone acoustic guitar takes centre-stage on this mellow, laid-back track.
English Musick is the only track to feature an electric guitar. He deploys his fuzz box. He unleashes stabs of dramatic rocky licks. Meanwhile, Michael’s plays his trusty acoustic guitar. His playing is quick, intricate and folk-tinged. His hands fly up and down the fretboard, as we hear two sides to Michael Chapman.
After the usual open tuning, Pipe Dreams unfolds. Again, it has a mellow, country blues’ sound. That’s thanks to brief bursts of slide guitar and his trusty acoustic guitar. They’re like yin and yang. Before long, Michael is upping the ante. At breakneck speed, his hands fly up and down the fretboard. He never misses note. Layers of music melt into one as Michael Chapman becomes a magical one man band.
Deliberate strums of guitar prove to be a curveball on High Wide and Handsome. Before long, Michael returns to his familiar country blues sound. Then he plays some slide guitar. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a glorious sound. Michael is one the best exponents of the slide guitar. It sounds as if Michael was weaned on Mississippi Fred McDowell and Blind Willie Johnson, and is paying homage to their memory.
Straight away, Michael deploys his box of tricks on A Scholarly Man. He uses it to transform the sound. That’s only briefly. After that his guitar rings out. At breakneck speed, Michael gives a guitar masterclass. He digs deep, drawing upon all the music that’s influenced him. What follows is best described joyous and dramatic. It’s also one of the highlights of Playing Guitar the Easy Way.
Sometimes in the Night has a melancholy, wistful sound. Having said that, there’s an ethereal beauty in the music. It’s simplicity itself. Essentially, it’s one man and his guitars, albeit, aided and abetted by his effect boxes. He uses them sparingly. At first it’s just Michael on his acoustic guitar, Before long, he’s playing a double. Subtly, he uses effects to shape the sound. His fingers fly up and down the fretboard, twisting, shaping and honing the sound. Almost effortlessly, he creates a track that’s melancholy, wistful and has an ethereal beauty.
Listening to Loop the Loop, it’s reminiscent of legendary country and western singer, songwriter and guitarist Merle Travers. Just like Merle, Michael plays a Gibson. Not always. He’s a variety of guitars to call upon. Michael makes his guitar sing. Seamlessly and peerlessly, Michael combines elements of blues, country and western and folk.
Rockport Sunday sees Michael’s guitar ring out joyously. He’s a guitarist’s guitarists. Technically, he’s up there with the best British guitarists of his generation. There’s plenty of them, including Peter Green, John Mayall, Mick Taylor, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Ron Wood and Keith Richards. Although they enjoyed much more commercial success and critical acclaim than Michael, he can hold his head high. A hugely talented, versatile and technically proficient guitarist, the joyous Rockport Sunday demonstrates what Michael Chapman is capable of.
Envious Eyes allows Michael to show different sides to his music. One minute, the music is understated and thoughtful, the next it takes on a country hue. That’s because Michael deploys his wah-wah pedal. He plays two different guitars. They sound very different. At one point, the second guitar is replying to the first guitar’s call. It wah-wahs across the arrangement, as we hear yet another side to Michael Chapman’s music.
Steel Bonnets closes Playing Guitar the Easy Way. Michael strums the guitar and deploys the phaser. This makes the music shimmer and quiver. It reverberates into the distance. Effects aren’t overused. Instead, they’re used sparingly. This add to what’s a beautiful, mellow and melancholy track.
Michael Chapman’s eleventh album, Playing Guitar the Easy Way, was very different to his previous albums. Playing Guitar the Easy Way was an album made up entirely of instrumentals. This proves the perfect showcase for Michael Chapman. After all, he’s without doubt, one of the best guitarists of his generations.
That’s apparent from the first time you hear Playing Guitar the Easy Way. You’re spellbound by Michael’s playing. His hands fly up and down the fretboards. He draws inspirations from blues, country and western, country blues, folk and rock. Michael’s just as happy playing acoustic guitar as he is unleashing some slide guitar. In his hands, a guitar comes alive. Michael has the ability to make a guitar come to life. It sings. The music he creates veers between bluesy, hopeful, joyous, melancholy, thoughtful, uplifting and wistful. Other times, it’s beautiful and ethereal. Despite the undoubted quality of Michael Chapman’s music, he’s still one of British music’s best kept secrets.
Only Michael Chapman’s 1970 album Fully Qualified Survivor charted. Even then, it stalled at number forty-five in the UK. For the rest of Michael’s career, it’s a case of what might have been? Commercial success and critical acclaim managed to elude Michael. That was the case with 1978s Playing Guitar the Easy Way. Since then, it’s never been released again. Recently, however, Playing Guitar the Easy Way made its debut on CD.
Michael Chapman released Playing Guitar The Easy Way which has just been released on CD for the first time by Light In The Attic Records. This is no ordinary reissue. Far from it. It’s a no expense spared reissue. Light In The Attic have faithfully recreated the sleeve-notes. They’ve also taken Michael Chapman’s own tapes and remastered them at 24bit/96kHz. All this results in what’s best described as a luxurious and lovingly compiled reissue of Playing Guitar The Easy Way.
Many people looking at Playing Guitar The Easy Way might mistake it for an album about how to play the guitar. It’s not. The idea behind Playing Guitar The Easy Way was to make life easier for aspiring guitar players. So, in the sleeve-notes, Michael includes a series of practical tips. Michael makes it clear that this isn’t an instruction book. No. It’s just a series of handy hints that will make life easier for both experienced and inexperienced guitar players. Each song has its own handy hint. They’re all explained concisely. No matter whether you’ve been playing six weeks or six years, there’s something that will help you. However, all that is just an added bonus. The main event is the music on Michael Chapman’s eleventh studio Playing Guitar The Easy Way.
MICHAEL CHAPMAN-PLAYING GUITAR THE EASY WAY.