Leeds-born Michael Chapman – alongside Caledonian contemporaries, Bert Jansch and Al Stewart – emerged in the mid-1960s with his uniquely English take on folk-blues. The era of the folk-singer-songwriter-as-pop-star was kicked off Stateside by Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton, and cloning soon followed in Britain in the shape of Donovan and Cat Stevens. But what musicians such as Chapman and Jansch then brought to the folkies’ party was guitar virtuosity.
Whereas Jansch first learned from Scottish traditional folk musicians such as Hamish Imlach when he took up guitar, Michael was perhaps even more of a maverick. First playing pubs in Hull and Leeds, the musical style he carved out for himself drew from American influences as wide-ranging as Charles Mingus and John Fahey. Add to this Chapman’s very North of England sense of humour and view on life, and you have… the artist Michael Chapman.
In fact, he was an art and photography lecturer in Bolton before deciding to give up the day job. This happened after a summer vacation spent in Cornwall where he made equally good money as a working musician. The word ‘troubadour’ perfectly describes Michael’s lifestyle in the four decades since then: a world-class guitarist who has spent big chunks of his life out on the road drawing on ordinary life in order to create extraordinary music.
Chapman has played all kinds of venues throughout his career depending on the project in hand. He alternated between playing solo and being backed by a band – sometimes featuring Hull-born Mick Ronson and, like here, Steeleye Span’s Rick Kemp.
By his own (gleeful) admission, Michael did his fair share of rock’n’roll living during the 1970s. The 1980s saw him going out as a duo, Savage Amusement, with Rick Kemp, and then in 1987, he released the innovative ‘Heartbreak’ album featuring a 38-minute long track. He remained prolific throughout the 1990s, experimenting with sampling and sequencers in order to create musical atmospheres that capture his wry and gritty picture of life. Which is further proof that, having travelled the world in search of inspiration, Michael Chapman remains consummately the English folk-blues man.
This album features Michael Chapman on guitar and vocals, the legendary Mick Ronson and Andy Latimer on guitar, Pete Wingfield on organ, piano and synth, Johnny Van Derek on violin, B.J.Cole on steel guitar, Keef Hartley on drums, Rod Clements on bass and John McBurnie and Vivienne McAuliffe on backing vocals. Highlights include the jazzy title track ‘The Man Who Hated Mornings’, an excellent cover of Dylan’s ‘Ballad In Plain D’, and the wonderfully disdainful ‘I’m Sober Now’.