Michael Chapman “Fully Qualified Survivor”

Michael Chapman, apart from being a prolific English songwriter whose revered work spans four decades, is probably the best guitar smith you have never heard. While his skills are best evidenced on this album’s predecessor, Rainmaker, the original songwriting and tight production, seemingly informed by all music that came before it, steal the show here.

It’s as if every style of rock music were somehow harnessed and tamed into Michael’s unique folk vision. The album sounds fresh as anything recorded today, yet still of its time, sparkling with punchy drum fills and orchestral arrangements. The album opens with an understated triumph: experimental strings create a soundscape for the soothing rhythm of Aviator to “take my time away.” I cannot think of another 9 minute song that doesn’t seem to last long enough. The lyrics on the album evoke a feeling of hopelessness, and there is a kind of sad tone but all together I believe it can be an uplifting album. This may be thanks to sharing much of the same personnel responsible for early albums by Elton John and David Bowie. During Fully Qualified’s hardest moments, though, I hear a striking resemblance to Bowie’s classic Man Who Sold The World.

Stranger In The Room and Soulful Lady lend a classic rock balance to softer songs like the immortal Postcards From Scarborough, by far the most famous Chapman song. Through several interludes, we are treated to Chapman’s masterful six-string suites. I know my fair share of fingerpicking but still have trouble believing that Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime is actually performed on one guitar by one person. In any case, it’s a piece that should be standard fare in guitar workshops the world over. But note that I’m not talking about the trite electric guitar leads, performed by Mick Ronson who would team up with Bowie for Space Oddity thanks to this record.

Fully Qualified Survivor is an exceptional collection of songs and your best introduction to one of England’s great underappreciated artists. One of the best.

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“Andru’s Easy Rider/Trinkets & Rings”

:D CD Reissue | 2011 | LITA |  buy ]
:) LP Reissue | 2011 | LITA | buy ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | Harvest | search ebay ]

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  • dk

    I have to confess that I have never heard of Michael Chapman before. But he’s now on my LP hunting list.

    This has turned into my standard comment, but I have to raise my hand every so often and say thanks for the reccos…

  • mark

    You have offered me yet another sublime and visionary musician!
    The album is every bit as excellent as you mention… only a single “weaker” song (“march rain”).
    The material is well woven together and seems to present a picture of the narrator (no doubt Chapman himself) — a survivor of an emotional tempest! Oddly enough, even the lead guitar, which at times becomes somewhat more than predictable, doesn’t date the release. It stands up well all of these years later… and the lyrics, as with the music, verge on the haunting. Certainly, it conveys the scars…
    Can you recommend my second step on this journey? Which should be the next album of his that I should acquire?

  • Brendan

    The first and 3rd albums are really good. The first is just as good as Fully Qualified but it’s more acoustic; he shows off his skills more so on the first. If you get the 2fer CD linked above, you get Rainmaker along with it, so it’s a good start.

  • One of my top ten favourite ever albums. It never ceases to amaze me that what I think is obscure still seems to be loved by others

  • Yair Yona

    I totally agree. Survivor is one of the best folk-rock I’ve ever heard and it’s by far Chapman’s best release, though his other 70’s albums (like Milestone, Windows, and the 3 albums released in the “Dogs Got More Sense” boxset) are fantatsic as well.

  • Matthew

    Uh, Ronson does not play on Space Oddity.

  • Brendan

    Got this from wikipedia: “…the album cut featured a 50-piece orchestra and was also notable for Mick Ronson’s debut on a Bowie record, playing uncredited guitar and handclaps midway through the song.”

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