I finally got round to buying this after seeing Michael Chapman a couple of times on his recent tour (at Otley and Leicester). I've always loved his songs but wasn't sure that a double CD of primarily solo acoustic guitar would be something that would keep me interested. How wrong. This is a collection of tunes that span most of his career that he has re-recorded for this release resulting in a sense of this all being a coherent set (as opposed to a "Greatest Hits"). The tunes span a number of genres but for the most part are either folk or blues in origin. However, irrespective of the basic style of any particular track, the reason this works as a whole, for me, is that everything here has a sense of drive/urgency. If you know MC at all, then trust me, you need this. If you like guitar in general, then you too need this. If you are casual browser then this is definitely well worth a punt.
P.S. I originally posted this as a 4* review, but it has just continued to grow and grow. Bryn
There's not much more that can be added to the reviews of this album, except perhaps a track listing, so here is what you get for your dosh:- The Last Polish Breakfast / Little Molly's Dream / Fahey's Flag / Rockport Sunday / Sunday Morning / Sweet Little Friends From Georgia / Elinkine / New Chord Blues / Uncle Jack - Looking For Charlie / Caddo Lake / Theme From The Movie Of The Same Name / Stranger's Map Of Texas / Slowcoach. Naked Ladies and Electric Ragtime / Ponchatoulah / Wellington the Skellington / Silverking / Sensimilia / Thurston's House / Thank You PK 1944 / The Coming Of The Roads / Sometimes / Extrabop / Trying Times / Hi Heel Sneakers / La Madrugada. Other than that, it's an amazing album showing off Michael's guitar prowess. Top Notch!!
As the previous reviewer says, this is a wonderfully recorded set utilising a number of acoustic, steel and electric guitars - but mainly acoustic. The set is almost 2 hours long ( a triple LP in old money ) but never flags or drags. Fahey is an obvious comparison, but in many ways these are perhaps more varied than some Fahey releases, and I heard a few echoes of Richard Thompson as well. If you are not a fan of solo guitar this probably won't convert you, but it is a beautiful record and good value too.
Firstly I have to admit my bias. Michael Chapman's acoustic guitar playing has been, for forty years, the standard by which I judge everybody else's. It's rich, full, deep and full of emotion, while being technically brilliant; as his producer Gus Dudgeon said on his very first (and I stll think best) album "Rainmaker" he tends to "sound like two exceptionally good guitarists playing together".
In the late sixties my serious guitar-playing friends enthused about Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, John Fahey and Davey Graham. I've explored the music of all of these people, and other guitarists such as Jack Rose, Martin Simpson and James Blackshaw, but none of them can achieve the combination of musicality and emotion thst just flows out of Michael Chapman. On this 2-CD album he ranges from Fahey pastiche (or "pisstake" as he translates it on one of his live albums) through dense and resonant (but not imepnetrable) acoustic guitar raga-flamenco work-outs to straight down the line simple but elegant electric playing on "Hi heel Sneakers".
One word of warning to potental UK purchasers or other already converted Chapman enthusiasts - this is virtually the same album as "Words Fail Me Vols 1 and 2" available from Marc Higgins via the Michael Chapman/Plaindealer website. The main differences are an additional track "Slowcoach" (and very good it is too)and some minimal explanations of each track by Michael himself. But for anyone who doesn't own "Words Fail Me", with any interest at all in great guitar playing, buy this - as I say, it's probably the best 2-CD set of guitar instrumentals you'll ever hear in your life!
If like me you had never heard of Michael Chapman and weren't sure how an all instrumental album would sound, let me assure you that his acoustic guitar work is amazing and his compositions wash over you like waves. Don't miss out.
I was new to Michael Chapman when I was introduced to this album/compilation, so I can't tell how it relates to the rest of his oeuvre. This 2cd set features newly recorded re-interpretations of previously issued compositions. After a first listening session I wasn't blown away by these recordings, and after a handful of listens I guess I still ain't. Michael Chapman doesn't strike me as a brilliant composer. He's not too shabby either, but in general obvious reference points like John Fahey, Robbie Basho or more recently Jack Rose took their tunes into a bit more unexpected territory than Chapman does. In stead, my five stars are awarded for his compellingly beautiful guitar sound. His lean, relaxed, occasionaly mesmerizing way of playing the guitar sets an extremely warm and glowing atmosphere that'll keep you warm during the coldest of winter evenings.
First bought Milesone Grit and Deal Gone Down Lps back in the early 70s, still have them! Finally about 32 years later unexpectebly saw him live at a small folk festival in the Brecon Beacons(lousy weather greatly reduced the audience, luckily had an alcohol overcoat!). Even got the chance to chat with him for a while as he waited about to go on, nobody else there seem to know who he was, very nice fellow too !! What a pleasure it was to hear and see him live, and as he said himself at the time ; he's quite a good guitarist; as this Cd demonstrates, well worth buying; and well worth going to see live if you get the chance!
i like to think I know my guitarists but Michael was one who was completely below radar to me until a couple of years ago. His 70s albums are patchy but interesting but this double CD is astonishing - beautiful instrumental recordings of a range of material, avant grade but accessible, classical but playful, the musicianship is stunning and having played it surreptitiously to a few people (including kids) it always gets a "this is good, what is it?" response. You might find it cheaper than £18 somewhere else but it's still well worth the price. Ooh - catch him live, too; no one's really heard of him so he's often found playing magical evenings on strange municipal halls! (See his website)