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Fully Qualified Survivor
- First time on CD in the United States for this 1970 British folk rock classic
- First vinyl reissue in decades
- Album features a pre-Bowie Mick Ronson on lead guitar and Rick Kemp of Steeleye Span on bass
- Produced by Gus Dudgeon (right after Gus did Bowie’s “Space Oddity” single)
- Includes Chapman’s best known song “Postcards of Scarborough” – a psychedelic guitar masterwork
- Liner notes by Mick Houghton (Uncut)
Although not as well known as his peers (Roy Harper, John Marytn, and Bert Jansch), the name Michael Chapman is an important one in the linage of English folk rock guitarists and singer/songwriters of the late 60’s/early 70’s. Chapman’s 1970 Fully Qualified Survivor can be filled between Roy Harper’s Flat Baroque and Berserk, John Martyn’s Inside Out, and Bert Jansch’s Jack Orion and you’ll be doing fine. The perfect album for a winter day and a joint.
Although not as well known as his peers (Roy Harper, John Marytn, and Bert Jansch), the name Michael Chapman is an important one in the linage of English folk rock guitarists and singer/songwriters of the late 60’s/early 70’s. For those unfamiliar with Chapman’s work, Roy Harper might be his closest musical cousin (and both artists were signed to EMI’s seminal stoner record label Harvest – also home to Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett).
Like other Harvest artists, Chapman’s music contains a slightly drugged out feel, sublime guitar playing and intense lyrics. Chapman recorded 4 albums for Harvest between 1968 and 1972, of which 1970’s Fully Qualified Survivor is hands down considered the classic amongst the whole highly coveted bunch.
What makes Fully Qualified Survivor such a special album (besides being a vehicle for a young Mick Ronson’s mind-blowing guitar heroics) are the layers of beautiful acoustic guitars, deranged vocals, floating conga drums, and the cello of one Paul Buckmaster – the same man who provided the intense strings on Elton John’s dark masterpiece “Mad Man Across The Water.”
Fully Qualified Survivor is very much an “album” more than a collection of songs as they seem to link together seamlessly, and in 2011 it’s hard to find words to do them justice…
So here’s some comments from 1970 on this blessed out stoner classic:
“An interesting and sometimes alarming bitter-sweet voice. Add to this his tendency to sound like two exceptionally good guitarists playing at once and you get some idea of what he is about.”
“Chapman’s own individual music making has evolved from so many different sources that if anyone tries to classify him they’ll be in trouble.”
And this one that summarizes the record perfectly: “ Fire in sky thunder in forest downpours a quiet voice.”
File this record between Roy Harper’s Flat Baroque and Berserk, John Martyn’s Inside Out, and Bert Jansch’s Jack Orion and you’ll be doing fine. The perfect album for a winter day and a joint.
Playing a blend of atmospheric and autobiographical material, he established a reputation for intensity and innovation. Signed to EMI’s Harvest label he recorded a quartet of classic albums. LPs like Rainmaker and Wrecked Again defined the melancholic observer role Michael was to make his own, mixing intricate guitar instrumentals with a full band sound.
The influential album Fully Qualified Survivor, featuring the lead guitar of Mick Ronson (of David Bowie fame) and Rick (Steeleye Span) Kemp’s bass, was John Peel’s favorite album of 1970. Survivor featured the Chapman ‘hit’, “Postcards of Scarborough”, a characteristically tenderly sour song recounting the feelings of nostalgia and regret.
After the release of Wrecked Again, Chapman parted company with Harvest, choosing to sign to Decca’s subsidiary Deram, where he altered course somewhat, adding electric guitar and harder rhythms to his work. Several albums were released on Deram during the early to mid 1970’s including one produced by Memphis legend Don Nix.
Recording for numerous smaller record labels, and playing the folk and club circuits, the 1980’s was a quieter time for Chapman. He continued to make recordings that straddled musical genres and pushed his guitar playing to the fore, but had neither the profile nor sales of the previous decade.
The late 1990’s onwards represented a period of continued rebirth for Chapman. He embraced the ‘elder statesman’ role and enjoyed critical acclaim for albums like Navigation, Dreaming Out Loud and Still Making Rain (a wry pun title that looked back to his debut album). With the 1997 release of Dreaming Out Loud, Chapman was releasing albums at the rate of one every two years, while attracting high praise from the likes of Thurston Moore and Supergrass.
A decade later and Chapman is still going strong, having just toured United States in 2011.