It's true that Michael Chapman
and sobriety haven't often been boon companions, but it makes for a good title to what's accurately billed as an alternate history. And it starts out truly early with some 1966 demos recorded while he still lived in Hull, before he became a professional musician, running through some old blues pieces -- his first love. Much of the first CD is live, either with a band or in a duo, including some stinging guitar playing and crisp writing, with that gravelly voice perfect on a wonderful version of "Wrecked Again," one of his greatest songs. The second disc focuses on the mid-'70s, including a wonderful "Sea of Wine" from a Hamburg gig with Keef Hartley
on drums. It all closes with more demos, this time from 1980, with Chapman
embracing reggae on the title cut -- an unusual mix, but one that works far better than it ought to. Sometimes he can get a bit too self-indulgent. At 15 minutes, "A Scholarly Man" goes on a good ten minutes too long. But as a portrait of Chapman
that fills out that of his studio albums, this is excellent stuff.