What is this Chapman Stick instrument that plays ALL of the music on this album?
It is a newer development in the string instrument world, invented in the 1970’s. Tapped with both hands (more like a piano than a guitar), it has components of bass, guitar, keyboards and drums. It is capable of simultaneous multi-part arrangements. Pictures of this instrument can be found at http://www.chapmanstick.com.
Michael Kollwitz was one of the inventor’s (Emmett Chapman) students and he has taken his skills with this instrument and produced an album of songs that will be recognizable to most. The album contains 16 of the Beatles biggest hits, played unlike you have ever heard.
Opening with “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” you are immediately struck by the richness of this instrument. The lead lines sound, on this cut, very much like a harpsichord. As described above, there is more than one sound generated by the stick and as the lead line is played, there is also a rhythm line/second lead and the bass lines being played.
“In My Life,” seems to be made for the stick. The ‘guitar’ part is almost spot on to the original as he layers in the rhythm and the vocal part to create a truly wonderful cover of this great song.
On some songs, it sounds as if Kollwitz has 4 or 5 hands. On “A Hard Day’s Night” there is so much going on; a lead guitar line, a rhythm guitar line, bass, drums and the vocal areas. It is an explosion of sounds all coming together to give you a real pleasant sound.
“Can’t Buy Me Love” will also please any Beatles fan. Kollwitz covers the vocals and harmonies at the same time as he plays a deep bass run. The tempo is slightly slower than the original, but the song still is fun. He even adds a little ‘country’ flavor to the song, giving it an even different sound. Then he breaks into a lead solo and makes notes that sound like a keyboard.
Most of the songs clock in like the originals at less than 3 minutes with two exceptions, “Hey Jude” and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
The version of “Hey Jude” is nice, but it does not contain the same richness as other songs on the album. On the other hand, the George Harrison song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is a standout on this album. Of course it helps that the original is one of the greatest songs ever written.
Kollwitz does an extremely good job of capturing the sounds Harrison conceived. The song swells and retreats as needed and the backing rhythm sounds are spot on. At one point he makes the stick sound exactly like an electric guitar during a solo. If this stick can do that…WOW.
Kollwitz’s interpretation of all the songs on the album is true to the original sounds desired by the Beatles, but with a new take that is unlike anything you have ever heard.
Is the Chapman Stick the next huge instrument? Will bands be adding it to their arrangements? Probably not, but would the Beatles (and Harrison specifically) added this instrument? The feeling here is they/he would. Harrison immersed himself in the sitar and the stick would have intrigued him and caused him to learn it.
If you are a Beatles fan, you will want to check this album out, knowing beforehand that these are different from the originals, but they are certainly worthy of a listen.
Review by Vinny “Bond” Marini
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)