Millstone Grit, released with Decca in 1973, marked a new beginning for Chapman who was looking for something new. He wrote this album and intended it to be “A Northern Six String Journeyman Minstrel”.
Essentially, this is a guitarist album. The production, big or small, that we know from his former four albums, is now gone, and the guitar is put in the center – and this time it’s mostly electric.
Just listen to the jazzy-dreamy-apocalyptic sound of New York Ladies. It’s interesting that exactly during this time, John Martyn was going through his own changes with Solid Air and Inside Out albums, that took his experimental sounds a bit further from the good ol’ troubadour.
That happened for a reason, as Chapman took on himself the production role for the first time ever. After four albums with Gus Dudgeon, Chapman said “Gus Dudgeon only wanted me to play acoustic when he produced, I snuck the solo on Goodbye To Monday Nigh on Rainmaker past him, but otherwise, no chance”.
The centerpiece of this album is New York Ladies. The guitar there is a summary of Chapman’s moods and energies, as goes from the basic accompanying of a simple song, to a cutting edge apocalyptic ending, that Chapman commented upon “It was much angrier played live I could get the guitar louder and really push the feedback“.
Sea Of Wine is a classic Chapman song, that sounds like belongs to funky/rocky side of the Window/Wrecked Again sessions, while Champion is the ragtime piece of the album, that finds Chapman showing off his acoustic guitar skills, and proves just what a mind blowing guitarist he really is.
The Hero Returns is one of Chapman’s classic songs, sort of a sarcastic description of himself, weary and bit bitter in a way. In this album he first proves his skills as a slide guitar player on Wellington and Skellington and ends with another classic Chapman song – Expressway In The Rain.