LIFE IN THE POND (180g VINYL)
ROGER CHAPMAN - LIFE IN THE POND (180g VINYL)
Released in 2021 on Ruf Records and Chappo Music, Life In The Pond draws a line under a period in which the 79-year-old had been absent from the studio but privately prolific. Twelve years since 2009’s acclaimed rarities collection Hide Go Seek, “A true lionheart still roars,” enthused The Mirror, Life In The Pond reconnects the veteran with faces from his past – including ex-Family multi-instrumentalist John ‘Poli’ Palmer as co-writer and producer – while taking the pulse of modern life.
ROGER CHAPMAN - LIFE IN THE POND (180g VINYL)
Release Date: July 2021
A studio album by Roger Chapman is always an event. Since ’66, when the British singer-songwriter emerged as the voice of his generation with the seminal Family band, through every twist of his four-decade solo career, Chappo’s output has defied music industry protocol, challenged genre, and held up a mirror to the times. “I’ve never stopped writing,” he reflects, “and with Life In The Pond, I felt the need to hear what I’d put down in music.”
Released in 2021 on Ruf Records and Chappo Music, Life In The Pond draws a line under a period in which the 79-year-old had been absent from the studio but privately prolific. Twelve years since 2009’s acclaimed rarities collection Hide Go Seek, “A true lionheart still roars,” enthused The Mirror, Life In The Pond reconnects the veteran with faces from his past – including ex-Family multi-instrumentalist John ‘Poli’ Palmer as co-writer and producer – while taking the pulse of modern life. “Mostly it’s anger at politicians that’s kept me fired up,” says Chapman of the lyrics. “But I’m also influenced by daily happenings, world news, people, acquaintances. It’s all in the lyrics.”
As for the music, Life In The Pond joins the dots between Chapman’s founding influences. “It’s about nostalgia for the different musical styles that influenced my life. American rock from the ’50s to now. British R‘n’B from the ’60s, like Georgie Fame, The Stones, Zoot Money. Folk, blues, Motown, Stax, Blue Note jazz, Classical, Americana, and Country. A whole mess of influences…”
That eclectic roll call won’t surprise anyone who has followed Chappo through his fascinating career. Born in the Midlands city of Leicester, he told the Rock Legacy site that “I wasn’t interested in the English version of rock ‘n’ roll. All my heroes were American, like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, and Gene Vincent – that was the real stuff.”
The 24-year-old singer joined The Farinas in 1966 and forged a dynamic writing partnership with lead guitarist Charlie Whitney. But the critical juncture came when the band renamed themselves, Family, moved down to London, and dreamt up a distinctive sound that swirled jazz, blues, folk, prog, and psychedelia into their classic 1968 debut album, Music In A Doll’s House. “We didn’t try to be different,” Chappo once shrugged. “It was never calculated. It was as naive and as honest as that.”
At the heart of it, all was Chapman’s extraordinary vocal. As a young singer, he had started out tipping a hat to those US pioneers, “I thought I was just singing like Little Richard or Ray Charles.” Yet his voice grew into a sound unlike anything else on the UK scene, swooping from a throat-flaying holler to a soothing balm, always with that unmistakable vibrato, and delivered with almost maniacal intensity on the stage. It was a decisive factor in Family’s ascent to the top ranks of the British psychedelic movement. “Being part of the ’60s underground was special for me,” reflects Chapman. “I felt I was a member of a new world order – which, of course, I was.”
Cherished by transatlantic fans, championed by DJ John Peel, and hitting UK#13 with the “Burlesque” single from 1972’s acclaimed Bandstand, Family released seven albums before disbanding in 1973. Chappo didn’t miss a beat, partnering with Whitney in Streetwalkers: a tougher Americana-influenced vehicle whose albums included 1976’s hit, Red Card. “The name had nothing to do with hookers,” he reflects. “That was the input of shabby managers.”
By 1979, this prolific singer-songwriter was ready to strike out solo with the Chappo album, and over four decades later, Life In The Pond ties all the threads together. Writing alongside Palmer – with stunning guest guitar from long-term collaborator Geoff Whitehorn – this latest album finds Chapman’s voice in vintage form and his musical radar more receptive than ever.
Opening with the rootsy groove, vocal grit, and brass licks of “Dark Side Of The Stairs,” the album’s mood roams from hypnotic seven-minute epic “Nightmare #5” to “Rabbit Got The Gun’s” dystopian soul-funk. “Having Us A Honeymoon” opens with a snatch of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March before honky-tonk piano leads a lusty East End singalong. At the other extreme, On “Lavender Heights” is a hushed stunner, Chapman using little more than his voice – with a dash of keys and strings – to carry a flash of genuine tenderness.
And while the lyrics can be biting, there’s a wistfulness to the closing “Naughty Child” that suggests that, even at 79, Chapman’s wide-eyed idealism remains intact, “When the world was young and foolish,” he sings. ‘When the world was running wild…”).
The world has turned a few times since ’66, but Roger Chapman still has something to say – and with Life In The Pond, his voice as an artist is more vital than ever. “I’m very pleased and grateful that Poli gave me the opportunity,” he says, “because I think we came up with the goods on this album.”
Dark Side Of The Stars
The Playtime Is Over
Rabbit Got The Gun
After The Rain
Having Us A Honey Moon
On Lavender Heights
Green As Guacamole (GAG)
Collar Turned Up
Vocals & Lyrics
Guitars (2; 9; 10)
Sequencing,, overdubs, vibs & Keys