Michael Chapman - Playing The Guitar Easy Way LP
Numbered release, colored vinyl.
Light in the Attic Records
Even in Michael Chapman's vast and wildly diverse catalog of releases, Playing Guitar the Easy Way is an outlier. Issued in 1978 during his association with Criminal Records, this is the innovative and storied guitarist's instructional album. Like all things Chapman, this one has a twist or two. For starters, it can be listened to on its own. The music is played on acoustic six- and twelve-string guitars -- there is even an electric piece in "English Musick" -- that come off as standalone originals and/or original derivations on folk standards. This is also one of (if not the) very first guitar instruction recordings-- with an accompanying booklet of tablature--to showcase the use of different tunings such as the now ubiquitous DADGAD. This tuning was developed for the guitar by one of Chapman's chief influences, guitarist Davy Graham, who derived it from hearing the sound of the oud, then adapted it for use in performing Celtic, Moroccan, and Indian music. Each track here begins with the open strings of each particular tuning employed, and then Chapman goes on to deliver each piece in his own style, often illumined with sonic effects often employed in those days; given the high quality of the music, they are still relevant in the 21st century. In other words, Playing Guitar the Easy Way isn't simply an academic instructional offering, nor is it a musical anachronism for completists. It's genuinely engaging as a Chapman instrumental album in its own right. One note of caution for pickers, however: this isn't for beginners. As the guitarist stated in Fretboard Journal in an interview with Thurston Moore about the 21st century re-release with its manual booklet: "...it wasn’t meant to be for people starting the guitar; it was for people who had maybe got bogged down a bit and then maybe wanted to write some songs, and here comes an interesting way to find some new chords, which is what I did, you know, I just went." [A 2014 by Light In The Attic reissue contains new liner notes by Chapman.]