The Second Disc

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Thank You M.C. 1969: Michael Chapman’s Folk-Rock Classic “Rainmaker” Arrives From Light in the Attic

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When the distinct green Harvest Records logo is remembered today, it’s often for Pink Floyd or early Electric Light Orchestra.  But the label, created to stake a claim in the burgeoning rock market, boasted a deep, diverse roster, all the better to compete with other “alternative” labels like Decca’s Deram or Philips’ Vertigo.  One of the artists who found early success on Harvest was Michael Chapman, a former art and photography instructor.  Chapman’s greatest achievement was arguably 1970’s Fully Qualified Survivor, on which the troubadour was backed by Mick Ronson on guitars and Elton John’s arranger du jour, Paul Buckmaster, supplying the string orchestrations.  But Chapman was so fully qualified because Survivor was actually the third in a rich series of albums that both defined and transcended the British folk-rock ethos of the period.

Light in the Attic delivered Fully Qualified Survivor last year, and has now turned its attention to remastering and expanding Rainmaker, Chapman’s 1969 debut for Harvest.  (1971’s Window would fall in between those albums.)  Like that more famous sibling, Rainmaker blends psychedelic, folk and rock influences into a potent brew that’s uniquely Chapman and again features a stellar line-up of supporting artists.  The album was overseen by another Elton John collaborator, Gus Dudgeon, the producer behind John’s remarkable series of seventies classics as well as David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” single.  Dudgeon would go on to produce Survivor for Chapman.  The singer, songwriter and guitarist was joined by drummer Aynsley Dunbar, perhaps best known for his association with Frank Zappa, and a host of other musicians including Clem Clempson (Humble Pie), Alex Dmochowski (Retaliation), Norman Haines (Locomotive), Danny Thompson (Pentangle) and Rick Kemp (Steeleye Span).

Hit the jump for more on Rainmaker, including the full track listing and order links!

Chapman occupies the space somewhere between traditional folk and electric rock, but his music was actually influenced by an array of diverse artists from Miles Davis and John Coltrane to Hank Williams and Elvis Presley.  He also found inspiration in abstract expressionist artists like Mark Rothko and the auteurs of French cinema.   It should be no surprise, then, that his music was well-considered and superbly crafted.  The album’s opener, “It Didn’t Work Out,” offers a unique sound thanks to the use of both electric and acoustic basses, and electric guitars shimmering over traditional folk acoustic guitar.  Norman Haines’ organ weaves in and out of the entire arrangement.  But the ornate musical bed doesn’t overwhelm the gently rueful song, anchored by a powerful rock backbeat.  Chapman was carving out his own niche somewhere between Bert Jansch and John Martyn at the crossroads of pop, folk and rock.  Chapman’s own guitar leads (on both acoustic and electric) stand out on the album, whether on “It Didn’t Work Out” or instrumentals like the title track, complete with sound effects, and “Thank You P.K. 1944” (so named for painter Paul Klee, who actually died in 1940!)  Chapman’s jazz roots shine through on these cuts, as well as his affinity for the blues.  “One Time Thing” is another haunting track, paying homage to the rather time-honored tradition of the one night stand.

Six bonus tracks have been added to the original 12-song lineup.  These include four tracks from an unreleased 1968 album, three of which have been previously unreleased: “Anniversary,” “Among the Trees” and “Sleepy.”  All three tracks, as well as the previously issued “Bert Jansch Meets Frankenstein (Take 2),” are heard in mono.  “On My Way Again,” an outtake from the Window sessions, has also been included, as has the mono single “Mozart Lives Upstairs,” the B-side of “It Didn’t Work Out.”

The lavish, 15-page booklet includes rare and unseen archival photos, and a lengthy essay by Byron Coley drawing on extensive, recent reminisces by Chapman himself.  Nick Robbins at Sound Mastering Ltd. has completely remastered the reissue, which is available in stores now from Light in the Attic on both CD and vinyl.  The 180-gram vinyl replica edition lacks the CD’s bonus tracks, but is housed in a reproduction of the gatefold jacket in its original form (including a deluxe Stoughton “tip-on” jacket)!  You’ll find order links below!

Michael Chapman, Rainmaker (Harvest LP SHVL-755, 1969 – reissued Light in the Attic LITA079, 2012 CD/Vinyl)

  1. It Didn’t Work Out
  2. Rainmaker
  3. You Say
  4. Thank You P.K. 1944
  5. No One Left to Care
  6. Small Stones
  7. Not So Much a Garden – More Like a Maze
  8. No Song to Sing
  9. One Time Thing
  10. Sunday Morning
  11. Goodbye to Monday Night
  12. Anniversary (Mono) (previously unreleased)
  13. Among the Trees (Mono) (previously unreleased)
  14. Sleepy (Mono) (previously unreleased)
  15. On My Way Again (outtake from Window sessions, first issued on Repertoire CD REP-4679, 1997)
  16. Mozart Lives Upstairs (Mono) (B-side of Harvest single HAR-5002, 1969)
  17. Bert Jansch Meets Frankenstein (Take 2, Mono) (first issued on Repertoire CD REP-4679, 1997)

Vinyl edition contains Tracks 1-12 only.

Written by Joe Marchese

January 27, 2012 at 13:44

2 Responses

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  1. Fantastic! Viva LitA! Added your info – and a link to http://lightintheattic.net/news/?p=4683 – here: http://uzine.posterous.com/the-regretful-rainmaker

    [uzine]

    January 28, 2012 at 08:16

  2. Great write-up on an artist who rarely gets mentioned. Chapman is a superb songwriter and guitarist with a number of excellent recordings to recommend. One that caught me off guard was his 2008 release, Time Past Time Passing, worth checking out if only for the beautiful instrumental “Caddo Lake.” After all these years, Chapman has still “got it.”

    Cheers,
    -Todd

    Todd

    January 29, 2012 at 13:29


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