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Turn It Up Loud – The Recordings 1981 – 1985 -Roger Chapman.

Sep 30, 2022

The musical melting pot of the sixties and early seventies was a period of great adventure and many bands had few of the shackles that constrain today’s artists. Roger Chapman’s bleating idiosyncratic delivery first came to prominence in the late sixties fronting Family; a band that traversed the British rock scene and encompassed blues, progressive and even psychedelic genres. Chapman was a mesmeric presence on stage and whilst never quite breaking through to the big time nevertheless became a favourite of  and students.

Despite critical acclaim and later laudable efforts via his band Streetwalkers alongside ex Family cohort guitarist Charlie Whitney, by the end of the seventies the advent of punk and new wave put paid to the Leicestershire born singer’s chances in his homeland. Surrounded by a band of top notch blues/rock session musicians including guitarists Geoff Whitehorn and Mickey Moody – ex Crawler and Whitesnake respectively – and a fruitful collaboration with producer David Courtney (Leo Sayer) prevailing musical trends may have scuppered any great success with his solo debut ‘Chappo’ in 1979 – but it did set the blueprint for his future career.

Lady luck lent a hand in the early 1980’s when Chapman appeared on the German institution TV show Rockpalast. Reaching an audience of 25 million, it proved to be the break he needed with his blend of rock, blues, funk, R&B, and soul finding favour on the continent. Cementing his reputation in Germany he scored a hit single with a cover of the Rolling Stones classic ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’. Having wisely relocated operations following his breakthrough there – in 1981 at the German Music Awards Chapman was voted Best Singer.

This 5 CD package covers four albums, single remixes, eight bonus tracks and documents his most commercially successful period. ‘Hyenas Only Laugh For Fun’ –  voted album of the year in Germany – was one of Roger Chapman’s biggest selling albums when first released in 1981 and alongside ‘Chappo’ ranks as one of his finest solo efforts. Using his live band and sung and played with focus and energy the album avoids the pitfalls of many over produced eighties albums as everything falls magically into place. ‘Killing Time’ with its Poli Palmer type vibes and echoes of past glories could easily have come from Family’s songbook and ‘Prisoner’ with its more straight ahead approach and a live favourite are among the highlights.

Released in 1982 the live album ‘He Was..She Was..’ finds Chappo in his natural habitat and at the top of his game. As the man admits: ‘When you’re on stage it’s all excitement and getting the groove…’ The live set certainly swings and captures all concerned playing with a verve and sass that is sometimes hard to capture in the studio. This is never more evident than on the medley of ‘Stone Free’ and ‘Bitches Brew’ the Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis classics. These versions rock and along with ‘Night Down’ (Ala ZZ) they also highlight the fretboard skills of Geoff Whitehorn who makes the whole package fly.

‘Mango Crazy’ and ‘The Shadow Knows’ have their moments but are more variable albums in the writing department compared to what went before. They are both decent efforts with some tunes showing great potential. ‘How How How’ is the pick of the bunch, a memorable hook coupled to some tasty guitar licks that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a late period Bad Company album. Ultimately though the production on these albums is veering towards a more contemporary sound and is somewhat at odds with the material and the players. The bonus tracks featured on the last disc in this collection are drawn from a 12-inch EP, ‘Live in Berlin’ issued in early 1985 and like the live recordings that preceded it once again crackle with an intensity and freewheeling attitude that made Chapman’s reputation throughout his career.

Lyndon Noon

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