If You Are a Gary Chapman Fan, Then This Weeks Blog is Just For You; by Philip Mayabb
This week we're featuring an album that I would not have been able to play not too long ago, although I've had a copy of it for many, many years. Around 1982 or so, I purchased my first copy of this album on an 8-track tape. I loved it so much that I wore that poor tape out, and then about 5 or so years later, I stumbled across another 8-track of the same album at a second hand store, and so I bought it as well. I FINALLY managed to find a vinyl copy of it at a flea market just about five or so years ago, and I was on cloud nine, so this week, I get to share this album with you. BTW, the album is Sincerely Yours by Gary Chapman.
I remember hearing some songs from it on our CCM station in St. Louis, and of course I knew who Gary Chapman was...he had written the very first song that I heard Amy Grant sing, called Father's Eyes. That was the extent of my knowledge of him at the time, but it was when I heard I Wanna Be Loved By You on the radio, that I knew I wanted his debut album. The truth is that Gary Chapman had been working in professional Christian music for a while before Amy recorded the song that made him a household name. He had performed with several local bands in high school, and after attending bible college, he made the big move to Music City USA, Nashville. Not long after moving there, he got the gig as the guitarist for The Rambos, the legendary Southern Gospel trio who were starting to move toward a more modern sound at the time. It was not long after that Amy Grant recorded Gary's song, and the rest is history. When Amy recorded her third album Never Alone, she recorded five more songs that Chapman had written or co-written, and it was from that experience that Gary became a hot commodity in Nashville as a writer.
The next step was to get a record deal, and record an album of his own songs, to showcase his talent as a singer. So Gary signed with Mike Blanton and Dan Harrell, Amy's management, and the search was on to get a contract with a record label. They secured one with Pat Boone's Lamb & Lion Records label, and so the last question remaining was who would be chosen to produce Gary's debut album. As it turned out, Mike Blanton had been in contact with Eddie DeGarmo regarding his young protégé Amy Grant, and she had sang vocals with Dana Key on Nobody Loves Me Like You on DeGarmo & Key's album This Ain't Hollywood. That led to the two men staying in contact from time to time, and so when Blanton & Harrell Productions took Gary as a client, Blanton called Eddie about the possibility of him and Dana producing Gary's first album. After meeting with Gary, the two Christian rockers accepted the job to call the shots in the studio for 'Sincerely Yours.
When I found it in the local Christian bookstore, I was wondering if Gary's album might have some of the rock and roll elements that were present in DeGarmo & Key's three albums that were out at the time, but that was not the case. Sincerely is vintage CCM all the way, with well crafted pop songs, some of which contained catchy hooks. However it's obvious as you listen that the D&K influence is all over the album. For starters, several of the people who worked on This Ain't Hollywood performed on Sincerely, Jack Holder, who had been friends with Eddie and Dana for quite a while, and had toured with them briefly as a second guitarist, sang background vocals, as did Jimi Jameson, who would become the lead vocalist of Survivor two years later. In addition, all four musicians who comprised the DeGarmo & Key Band on Hollywood (DeGarmo, Key, Joe Hardy, and John Hampton) all played on Sincerely Yours along with a young keyboardist by the name of Keith Thomas. When the album was released, it was obvious that the boys from Memphis had a heavy hand on the record, even though it was nowhere near as rock and roll as D&K.
No Time At All, the album's leadoff track is one of my personal favorites on the record. A mid tempo pop number, it sets the tone for the rest of the album, with Gary turning in a great vocal performance, and a rousing guitar solo by Dana Key to close the track. The aforementioned I Wanna Be Loved By You is next, written by Gary and Keith Thomas, it has a fantastic smooth jazz vibe to it, with the rhythm section laying the foundation of the song, and a really nice sax solo putting the icing on the cake. Love Is A Name is a slower number, but has some thought provoking lyrics about how love is misused and mishandled by the masses, but in fact God is love, which is straight from the bible. Now, we move on to Open Up My Eyes which is essentially a prayer from start to finish, and something that all of us should be praying from time to time, but it is a really good song. The title song finishes side one, containing just Gary's vocal, an acoustic guitar and a string section, but it's one of the powerhouse moments of the entire album, sang in a very sincere manner (no pun intended). This is one of those songs that has to be sang in a certain manner to be effective, and that way is from the heart. I believe you will hear that honesty in Gary's performance.
On to side two, we start with The Secret Of Love, a mid tempo song that bounces along from start to finish, with some catchy background vocals in the chorus (again, they sound like they came off This Ain't Hollywood), and a cool guitar solo, this time played by Jack Holder. The next track, named Anywhere pops right of the gate, with Thomas playing a hip little intro on the piano, joined by the rest of band and a string section. The vocals are delivered masterfully by Gary and guest vocalist Amy Grant (surprised?), and when it is all tied together, it is another winner, and one of the best tracks on the album. I'd Really Like To Tell You follows, and I'm led to believe it was probably written to Amy from Gary, although I've never seen confirmation of that. It is a Christian love song, and fits well in its position on the record. Next to last is Feelin' Right, which has a different type of sounds than any other track on Sincerely Yours, and is probably the only track on the record that I didn't really care for that much...I prefer the version that opened Gary's live album Happenin'. The final cut, called One Hope is a song that you could effectively use for an invitation, with the lyrics eluding to the only hope that we have in this life, which is the Lord Jesus.
All in all, Sincerely Yours is a very good piece of work, and is a solid debut, for both Gary Chapman as an artist, and Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key as producers. History has been kind to Gary as a writer, and maybe to a lesser degree as a singer, although he did enjoy a very solid block of chart hits in the 90s. His personal life was something totally different, and we won't go into that, because our focus here is on the music. This is an album that I would suggest to anyone who is looking for a recording that fits right into the time frame in which it was released, because the sound definitely speaks early 80s as you listen. There are no groundbreaking hits on Sincerely, but there are ten pretty good songs that were a good starting point for an up and coming singer / songwriter at the time. The only thing for me that might have made this album even better would have been if Gary could have recorded Finally during these sessions, and included it on the project. Of course we all know that country star T.G. Sheppard released it in 1982, and Gary himself covered in on his live album Happenin' in 1983.
So we hope that you will enjoy listening to a very good, and probably underrated album this week, as we present Gary Chapman's debut solo LP, Sincerely Yours on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival.
1. No Time At All (Gary Chapman & Keith Thomas)
2. I Wanna Be Loved By You (Gary Chapman & Keith Thomas)
3. Love Is A Name (Gary Chapman)
4. Open Up My Eyes (Gary Chapman)
5. Sincerely Yours (Gary Chapman
1. The Secret Of Love (Gary Chapman & Keith Thomas)
2. Anywhere (featuring Amy Grant) (Gary Chapman & Tim Marsh)
3. I'd Really Like To Tell You (Gary Chapman)
4. Feelin' Right (Gary Chapman)
5. One Hope (Gary Chapman)
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