MICHAEL CHAPMAN – Fully Qualified Survivor

Michael Chapman is one of Britain’s best and most well-respected singer/song-writers, and has been releasing albums since the late 60’s, and yet it has taken me this long to sample his work. Prompted by a Record Collector article on the Harvest label, I tracked down this copy of his second album, from 1969. I must admit that I was heavily influenced in my choice of album by the fact that Mick Ronson guests on this one, and I was looking forward to hearing his contribution. I also managed to pick arguably his best album, and on the showing of this one I really should have tried him sooner. The songs are a mix of acoustic folk songs, very much in the style of Roy Harper, and also some more up-tempo pieces, on which Ronson shines. ‘Aviator’ opens proceedings with a nine minute epic – mostly Chapman on vocals and guitar, but Johnny Van Derek’s violin really adds to the proceedings. ‘Naked Ladies And Electric Ragtime’ is a jaunty little Leo Kottke-style guitar instrumental, while ‘Stranger In The Room’ introduces Ronson’s guitar, and spookily brings to mind David Bowie’s early work on his ‘Space Oddity’ album. ‘Postcards Of Scarborough’ follows (John Peel’s widow Sheila’s favourite ever song), and the lyrics do convey the sadness of a broken relationship. After the three lengthy tracks of side one we get seven shorter songs on the flip. ‘Soulful Lady’ is almost heavy rock, ‘March Rain’ is an orchestrated ballad, and ‘Kodak Ghosts’ not only sees the return of Mick Ronson, but also must have influenced Eyeless In Gaza’s 7” ‘Kodak Ghosts Run Amok’ (and if you still have that single then you are obviously as sad as me). ‘Andru’s Easy Rider’ showcases Chapman’s skills on piano and slide guitar, and the album ends with the funky groove of ‘Trinkets And Rings’, with a Ronson and Chapman guitar duel. A really excellent album, and one I should have got years ago. Still available quite reasonably on vinyl, and also out on CD.