Roger Chapman is proud to announce that his new record, Life in the Pond, will be unveiled by Ruf Records on June 25, 2021.
A studio album by Roger Chapman is always an event. Since ’66, when the British singer-songwriter emerged as the voice of his generation with the seminal Family band, through every twist of his four-decade solo career, Chappo’s output has defied music industry protocol, challenged genre, and held up a mirror to the times.
Chappo’s latest effort, Life In The Pond reunites him with faces from his past – including Poli Palmer as co-writer/producer and guest guitar from Geoff Whitehorn, while connecting the dots between his early influences and taking the pulse of modern life. “There’s nostalgia for the different musical styles that influenced my life,” he says. “American rock from the ’50s to now. British R‘n’B from the ’60s, like Georgie Fame, the Stones, Zoot Money. Folk. Blues. Motown. Stax. Blue Note jazz. Classical. Americana. Country. A whole mess of influences. Mostly it’s anger at politicians that’s kept me fired up. But I’m also influenced by daily happenings, world news, people, acquaintances. It’s all in the lyrics.”
Born in the Midlands city of Leicester, the 24-year-old singer joined The Farinas in 1966 and forged a dynamic writing partnership with lead guitarist Charlie Whitney. But the critical juncture came when the band renamed themselves, Family, moved down to London, and dreamt up a distinctive sound that swirled jazz, blues, folk, prog and psychedelia into their distinctive sound that swirled into their classic 1968 debut album, Music in a Doll’s House.
Cherished by transatlantic fans, championed by DJ John Peel, Family released seven albums before disbanding in 1973. Chappo didn’t miss a beat, partnering again with Charlie Whitney in their new outfit, Streetwalkers. But Chapman’s long-awaited solo career beckoned, leading him to Germany. Over the next two decades, he released over a dozen full-length releases.
With 2009’s Hide Go Seek championed by fans and press alike, Chappo could have chosen that release as the swansong to a stellar career. In 2011, the singer told the Rock Legacy website that “I’ve tried retiring over the past ten years or so," and dropped a few hints he was considering stepping back from the spotlight – most notably with a 2012 live album pointedly titled Maybe The Last Time.
Throughout 2013, Family were a towering presence on the British scene. Alongside the shows, fans welcomed the release of Once Upon A Time: a definitive Family compilation, gathering the band’s entire catalogue – including outtakes, alternative versions and rarities found in Chappo’s loft – on a 14-disc boxset whose mouthwatering presentation scored the Grand Design award at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards.
Life In The Pond ties all the threads together. Writing alongside Palmer, with stunning guest guitar from long-term collaborator Geoff Whitehorn, this latest album finds Chapman’s voice in vintage form and his musical radar more receptive than ever.
Opening with the rootsy groove, vocal grit, and brass licks of “Dark Side Of The Stairs,” the album’s mood roams from hypnotic seven-minute epic “Nightmare #5” to “Rabbit Got The Gun’s” dystopian soul-funk. “Having Us A Honeymoon” opens with a snatch of Mendelssohn’s "Wedding March"before honky-tonk piano leads a lusty East End singalong. At the other extreme, "On Lavender Heights” is a hushed stunner, Chapman using little more than his voice, with a dash of keys and strings, to carry a flash of genuine tenderness.
And while the lyrics can be biting, there’s a wistfulness to the closing “Naughty Child” that suggests that, even at 79, Chapman’s wide-eyed idealism remains intact, “When the world was young and foolish,” he sings. ‘When the world was running wild…”)
The world has turned a few times since ’66, but Roger Chapman still has something to say – and with Life In The Pond, his voice as an artist is more vital than ever. “I’m very pleased and grateful that Poli gave me the opportunity,” he says, “because I think we really came up with the goods on this album.”