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There’s laid back. There’s cool. There’s easy listening, and then there’s Oliver “Stumpy” Chapman. The veteran vocalist recently released a CD in North America which is a combination of all.
Titled A Life of Words & Music, the disc comprises 11 of Chapman’s compositions, plus two tracks by Winsford “Joker” Devine and Samuel Archer, as well four bonus tracks and remixes.
Produced jointly with Samuel Archer, Chapman sought some of the best in the music business for this CD. For instance, it includes live horns and overdubs by renowned trumpeter Etienne Charles and some background vocals are provided by the highly acclaimed Keith “Designer” Prescott.
Baron might be “the sweet soca man” but, on this CD, Chapman is a “sweet love man,” as most of his compositions actually consist of lyrics of endearment clearly meant too impress and woo the ladies. He is also serious on a few, like his cover of Devine’s Progress and the heart-wrenching Behind Bars. But, songs like I’m Missing Your Smile, Girl Don’t Say No, I Appreciate You and Pretty Little Thing are definite heartstring-tuggers.
The bonus tracks/remixes are I Can’t Believe It, I Will be your friend and Pretty Little Thing.
“I began singing before Moses,” joked Chapman when he visited the T&T Guardian last week. He began singing at 17 with the formation of The Sparks, one of the most popular singing groups in the 60s-70s. Back then the local live entertainment circuit was very alive with pop groups like The Strollers, Blue Veils, Host of Others and The Sparks. “We went public when I was 19,” said Chapman. “Back then, Tony Wilson (T&T-born vocalist of the British band Hot Chocolate) was our vocal and music coach. The coming out of The Sparks coincided with the birth of our nation.”
Chapman recalled several memorable moments with The Sparks. One of them, he reminisced was the release of the single Don’t Climb Picker Tree in 1973, written by the late Frankie Atwell. “We all knew that song would be a hit and it was. That was a memorable moment of my career. Another memorable moment was in the early 70s when newspaper journalist Patrick Chokolingo embraced The Sparks upon his release after a short period in prison.”
The Sparks changed its name to Wild Fire, comprising Cylan Charles, Terry Collymore, Lennox James, Clifford Wilson and Chapman. “We changed the name because at the time The Sparks was really gaining momentum and we were looking to make it internationally. Tony wrote to us from England to say that the record company, RAK Records, realised there was another group with the same name, with a hit in London at the time. It was Tony who came up with the name Wild Fire. The name change happened during Carnival when we were performing at Kitchener’s calypso tent. We changed the name, promoted the name and everything worked out great. Our first hit was Come on Down. This was followed by We Are All God’s Children, Old Man River, Try Making Love and many more. Not all our songs were number one but they were all chart riders.”
Chapman migrated to the United States to “permanently” reside there in 1987. He said: “I wasn’t comfortable in the States so I went to St Thomas in 1995 as I was looking for somewhere warmer to live. Eventually I returned to Trinidad and stayed here for a few months and then returned to New Jersey in 1998 and lived there until this year.”
Chapman was on a seven-year hiatus from music before producing A Life of Words & Music. He said: “During that time I was doing all kinds of things, including producing a documentary. Before A Life of Words & Music, I produced another CD titled From the Pen of Oliver Chapman. That album had tracks by artistes singing my compositions; people like Carol Addison and Junior Byron.
“There are still some things I still want to do musically and they’re all in my head for the moment. I have so much unpublished work but it’s all on quarter-inch tape. Technology has changed through the years so I will have to return to the States to transpose that work.
“Another thing I would like to do is have some of the young singers do my work. As a matter of fact, all of the people who have ever done my work have been younger than me. Of the young people out there that I’ve heard among those who have impressed me by their singing talent have been Keith “Designer” Prescott, Roger George and Patrice Roberts. I am still learning the names of some of the new singers so there are others I have heard but can’t remember their names.”
Professionalism is the hallmark of this CD, inclusive of its production, photography, memorabilia of autographed pens and a 2014 diary, and overall packaging. This one is a definite collector’s item.
A Life of Words & Music.
I’m Missing Your Smile
Girl Don’t Say No
These Are the Changing Times
I Appreciate You
O How I Wish
A Story Only I can Tell
Make the World Better
I Can’t Believe It
I Will be your friend
Pretty Little Thing