Michael Chapman was right at the core of the late-‘60s British singer/songwriter scene, alongside the likes of Nick Drake, John Martyn, et al. Like them, he was both a master songsmith and a wildly inventive guitarist, but never received the same sort of widespread renown. Fortunately, unlike Drake and Martyn, Chapman is still among us, making vital music. And as his cult continues to grow, more and more disciples come out of the woodwork. Chapman’s first two albums, Rainmaker and Fully Qualified Survivor, were recently reissued, and now the Tompkins Square label has gathered together an intriguing array of both Chapman’s peers (Maddy Prior, Bridget St. John) and his followers (Thurston Moore, Lucinda Williams, Meg Baird of Espers, etc.) for the tribute album Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done: Friends Play Michael Chapman.
On the album, Sonic Youth mainman Thurston Moore tackles a track from Chapman’s 1969 debut, Rainmaker, a lyrically downcast tune called “It Didn’t Work Out.” The original version, backed by a full band, bears a surging, almost proto-prog feel, but Moore – whose solo work is likely influenced by Chapman’s unconventional acoustic guitar style – takes a more sparse, unplugged approach to the tune, subverting the chord structure slightly to give it that signature Thurston Moore sonic stamp, while amping up the alienation inherent in the lyrics. “Thurston has played a big part in bringing attention to Michael Chapman,” says Tompkins Square founder Josh Rosenthal, “[he] interviewed him in Fretboard Journal a couple of years ago, and released one of Michael’s albums on his own Ecstatic Peace label.” At this rate, Chapman just might end up earning the Nick Drake-like reputation he deserves, while he’s still around to enjoy it.
Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done: Friends Play Michael Chapman is out now.Thurston Moore - It Didn't Work Out