SOME of the albums in this corridor of old discs are duplicated in the CD collection. Others slump in the vinyl queue, waiting to be rediscovered. Chappo hasn’t been listened to in years but proves a rewarding rediscovery.
Roger Chapman was the vocalist with Family, usually described as a progressive rock band, and probably now remembered only by a few fans. Known for their manic intensity, the band were around from 1967 until 1973 – ancient history, I know – and Chapman then span off into Streetwalkers. Chappo was Chapman’s first solo album, released in 1979 (slightly less ancient history).
What quickly becomes apparent again, crackling back over the years, is that Roger Chapman has a striking voice, as idiosyncratic as his famed stage performances with Family. It’s a strong vocal instrument marked by what you might call a gravelly vibrato. He sounds as if he carried on drinking whatever harsh liquids Joe Cocker rejected as being too risky for the throat. He has a touch of Feargal Sharkey about him, too.
Chapman himself has said: “I thought I was just singing like Little Richard or Ray Charles” – something that would have been news to both gentlemen, at a guess.
Chappo has ten tracks and is therefore a game of musical five-a-side, and two of the songs feature the word “night” unfortunately rendered as “nite”. Many of the songs are written by Chapman, some are collaborations, and one is a rock’n’roll classic, a fantastic rendition of the Leiber and Stoller song I Keep Forgettin’ – complete with a sterling saxophone solo by Ron Asprey (a founding member of the Yorkshire fusion duo Back Door and a jazz name in his day).
First up is Midnite Child which shows Chapman’s commanding gravel-truck voice off to great effect, as does Moth To A Flame. Shape Of Things opens with the enjoyably preposterous lyric “Crazy night bordello’s in the heart of town/Me in my tuxedo you a pretty gown…”
Side two opens with another rearranged night in Who Pulled The Nite Down, followed by Always Gotta Pay In The End – the strongest flipside songs, as everything trails off slightly after that.
I’d almost forgotten this album but feel happy to have met up again. Chapman sounds great, the songs are nearly all good, and the musicians are hard-working, old-school rock and jazz players.
Roger Chapman carried on recording and releasing solo material after Chappo, and is still singing today, aged 76. On the cover of Chappo, as you can see above, he is wearing an absurd red boiler suit, with matching red shoes, and looks to me like a cut-price and rather self-conscious Phil Collins impersonator.