MICHAEL CHAPMAN – Pleasures Of The Street (Mooncrest CRESTCD106)

Pleasures Of The StreetMichael Chapman fans are having a field day at the moment as Secret Records continue with their program of album reissues. Pleasures Of The Street was recorded and released in 1975 with a band comprising Achim Reichel on lead guitar, bassist Steffi Stephen and drummer Keef Hartley. Two gigs were played over the weekend at Onkel Pö’s in Hamburg and the eight tracks from the original album are bolstered by five bonus cuts including three alternate versions.

That the gigs were actually played, let alone an album made, seems like a miracle. Michael’s wife Andru caught measles somewhere on the tour and had to be quarantined; Reichel didn’t learn the parts Michael wanted and was pretty much mixed out of the album; Stephen got off with Hartley’s girlfriend and the two were at musical loggerheads.  Michael wasn’t happy but, hey, this was rock’n’roll.

The album opens with three solo acoustic tracks. ‘Party Pieces’ is mostly about drinking and booze plays a large part in the record with ‘Firewater Dreams’, ‘Sea Of Wine’ and ‘Hero Returns’ adding to the narrative. ‘Among The Trees’ and ‘In The Valley’ are as close to pastoral as Michael gets with the former displaying his ability to play two different parts simultaneously.

The band first appears for ‘Shuffleboat River Farewell’ – the first take – and there are two of Michael’s biggest hits of the time: ‘Wrecked Again’ and ‘Deal Gone Down’, the latter arguably the best track in the set and it benefits from two versions. The second take is the longer and to my ear Michael sounds happier – perhaps he’s glad that it’s nearly all over. The same is true of version 2 of ‘Shuffleboat River Farewell’. From what could have been a complete disaster Michael Chapman and co-producer Max Hole put together a decent album and Pleasures Of The Street still entertains forty-five years on. You can’t argue with class.

Dai Jeffries

Label website: www.secretrecordslimited.com

‘Among The Trees’ – band version originally on Old Grey Whistle Test. That’s Rick Kemp on bass: