As with many great vocalists, few would ever accuse former Family frontman Roger Chapman of having a ‘good’ singing voice. But a characterful and unique one, most definitely. It’s not the voice, it’s the delivery. And at 79 it’s still intact.
His post-Family output with Streetwalkers then solo has been patchy, some of it too close to alcohol-free pub rock or matt-finish R&B soul. When he does have a good song to dance with, however, the results can impress with real quality, whether that’s via a bar-stool-kicking belter or a candle-lit ballad.
Moth To A Flame – The Recordings 1979-1981 brings together Chapman’s first three solo albums, plus 25 bonus tracks drawn from studio out-takes and live recordings. Feet-finding debut Chappo typically runs hot and cold, tracks from the red tap including the classy Shape Of Things, Pills, and Fave Of Stone with its Family-favourite quiet/loud dynamic. The following year’s Mail Order is a far broader and more engaging affair, the contrasting musical colours of the driving Unknown Soldier
(Can’t Get To Heaven), the smouldering He Was, She Was and an almost electro Ground Floor lighting up an album that should be better known. Both records are here expanded with bonus tracks, the best of which include bar-room boogie Fist To Yer Jaw, a percussion-rattling out-take of Higher Ground and an intriguing, again almost electro, demo of it.
Alongside 1979’s excellent Live In Hamburg, here with bonuses including a slinky rendition of Family’s Hey Mr Policeman and evergreen hit Burlesque, there’s also the Live In Hamburg January 1981, another smart, if shorter and rougher, collection.
A disc of out-takes and a previously unreleased live set recorded in 1979 for BBC Radio’s In Concert series (Who Pulled The Night Down/Talking About You/Down, Down, Down, Hang On To A Dream, Short List and Can’t Come In) completes a worthy package.