Album review: ROGER CHAPMAN – Peaceology

Roger Chapman - Peaceology

Hypertension [Release date 24.11.14]

‘Peaceology’ is a successfully re-mastered version of the 2007 Americana influenced album ‘One More Time For Peace’. It comes with a new title, new art work, three new tracks and a completely different running order that provides a better balance, while quietly losing ‘The Same Old Loving Feeling’.  The result is a vibrant 13 song set that focuses on Roger Chapman the reflective wordsmith.

In an enduring career spanning 5 decades, Roger Chapman has seen both the highs and lows of stepping outside of the musical role his fans expect. On the one hand he found success by covering The Stones ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ and Mike Oldfield ‘Shadow On The Wall’, but, but his mid-80’s collaboration with The Bolland Brothers – of ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ fame – didn’t sit well with the rock orthodoxy.

Similarly, the initial response to the Americana and rootsy influenced ‘One More Time For Peace’ was also muted. But Roger obviously had sufficient belief in the quality of the songs to re-approach the material and infuse it with a brighter sonic quality and better sequencing. The result is an unlikely triumph.

The songs on ‘Peaceology’ are often reflective and poignant, while the lyrics are delivered with a ragged world-weary feel, well suited to some of some biblical metaphors and contemplative lyrics.

The original album followed the unplugged ‘Rollin & Tumblin’ and the re-mastered album builds on the strengths of that approach. It strikes an equilibrium between acoustic roots and ‘live in the studio’ electric arrangements of subtly crafted songs.

The opening ‘The 7th Floor! Teach Me How It Walks’ is one of three new tracks. It’s lyrically strong and is carried by a sweeping organ line and jangling guitars. The funky ‘EZ Train’ is reminiscent of Willie Dixon’s ‘Spoonful’, but with a gospel hook, while the contrasting warm bv’s and Geoff Whitehorn’s consistently good guitar playing gives the album a notable lift.

The other new song is the surprisingly tender ‘The Only Rose’, which is an ode to his son with a disciplined arrangement, on which the accompanying guitar parts shimmer and Paul Hirsh’s drifting piano line beautifully weaves in and out of the track.  Roger adds crystal clear diction and emotes hoarsely.

If ‘The 7th Floor’ provides an arresting opening, then the typically brusque ‘Oh Brother, Take Me Now’ gives the album a muscular intro and some real momentum.

A crisp mix highlights the rhythmic quality of the gently thumbed, acoustic accompaniment on the Dylan influenced ‘Sweet Bird’, as Roger leans into the song with some great phrasing. His voice may sound like the sum of a thousand late nights, but it fits the song perfectly.

‘Hell Of a Lullaby’ is another outstanding track, with its opening faux brass band intro, Roger’s expressive throaty enunciations and a string arrangement on the chorus. The intricately played and lyrically reflective, ‘All Too Soon’ is equally good and flows beautifully, while the country tinged ‘All Night Paradise’ is brushed stroked swing with a George Harrison style ‘call and response’ hook, on which Roger feels sufficiently happy to whoop in appreciation.

The change to the sequencing is hugely significant, especially so on train-time title track which is far better placed here at the three quarter mark. It also acts as a neat foil for the angular, violin-led funk of the Streetwalkers influenced ‘Devil Gotta Son’. The track which also features Bobby Tench on bv’s and some characteristic Chappo swagger is noticeably different from the rest of the album and could have come from the ‘Walking The Cat’ era.

‘Naked Hearts’ is a fine melody with a layered production and double tracked vocal over seamless slide and delicate stuttered brush strokes from Henry Spinetti, while the electric live favourite, ‘Heading Back To Storyville’ is given an intricate acoustic arrangement with a restrained Chappo rap

The cover of William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ sounds as if it inspired the album as a whole. It’s the perfect finish to a brave album, which benefits considerably from the make over and leaves you in no doubt that the one time wild man of rock has much more to give as song writer.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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