Flashback: Jen Chapin

In anticipation of the shutdown of Apple’s MobileMe service, I am re-posting some of my old blog entries before they become harder to retrieve.

This entry was originally posted on April 18, 2004.

Jen Chapin’s Home Page

The year is 2004. That means that fifty years ago this year, the term “Rock ‘N’ Roll” was first coined. If a generation is generally considered to last 25 years, that means that two full generations have now been raised on rock music. Having been born in the year 1972, I have often said (only partially mindful of the accuracy of the statement) that I consider myself one of the “second generation children of rock ‘n’ roll.”

But I’m a fan, pure and simple. There has also been room for the children of rock-n-rollers to follow in their parents’ footsteps. And each child generally has room to alternately define him- or herself as a function of their parents’ music, or completely independently of it (even acknowledging that they might have a ready-made fan base among their parents’ music…)

That being said, I consider it unfair that the reviews of the children’s music often try to compare the child with the parent. The discriminating ear should not force one to enjoy the child and the parent as functions of one another, especially if the child is following a different artistic path from the parent. When we learn that the child is going into music, we should keep our ears, hearts, and minds open to any of the following possibilities:

— that we would like the music of both parent and child (which is how I feel about Pete Townsend and his daughter, Emma)
— that we would like the music of the parent but not the child (which is how I feel about Bob Dylan and his son, Jakob’s band The Wallflowers)
— that we would not like the music of the parent but would like the music of the child (which is how I feel about Ravi Shankar and his daughter, Norah Jones)
— that we would not like the music of the parent, nor would we like the music of the child (which is how I feel about Elvis Presley and his daughter, Lisa Marie)

I admit up front, that I like both the music of Jen Chapin, and that of her father, Harry. That’s the closest I will ever come to comparing the two of them, musically.

Jen has an edgy sensibility to her. She clearly benefits both from the sense that she can morph her style as she sees fit, and the reality that women in music today are capable of being more expressive than they could have, say, thirty years ago. She draws from a prestigious line of female songwriters ranging from Joni Mitchell and Janis Joplin to the more recent artists such as Tori Amos and Idina Menzel.

To date, she has released three albums and an EP. Her first album is a live album that was recorded in various sessions at the famous Bitter End coffeehouse in Greenwich Village, New York City. You can definitely tell that she is comfortable on the stage and with her presentation to the audience. There’s something to a live album that, if it’s produced properly, reveals more than just banter between artist and audience. You can almost picture the setup of the stage, how each performer contributes to the whole picture. Maybe even the lighting. A good concert album makes you want to go see the artist perform.

I will be seeing her perform at The Point, a local coffeehouse, at the end of this month. ‘Nuff said….

Her second album really shows her desire to experiment. I will not call Open Wide a concept album, however it might come as close to being one as it possibly can, without actually being one. If you were to think of it as a concept album, then the concept is simply that she likes to experiment and that she’s got the guts to follow through with her vision. Each of the album’s ten tracks is as simple as it is powerful: her only accompaniment is her bass-playing husband, Stephan Crump. The net result, I must say, works a lot better than I ever would have predicted: you have a complete album that, if you didn’t know better, sounds like a single experimental song not unlike Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick.

Her most recent album, Linger, is fun and sexy, with songs that can get stuck in your head and you’ll enjoy having them there. I have heard the song “Me Be Me” from this album played on the radio a couple of times now. Her music is genuinely playable and listenable.

Okay. I’m about to make one last comparison with her father. I predict that she will be a bigger star than her father ever was. (And considering that he had a song that reached number 1 on the billboard charts, that’s quite an accomplishment.)

If you find any of her albums in a record store, buy them…..


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