Tuesday, 5 April 2011

"Fully Qualified Survivor" by MICHAEL CHAPMAN (2011 Light In The Attic Records CD Reissue And Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This review is part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:


"…Like Jewels In Your Hand…"

Seventies Rock aficionados will no doubt have read gushing reviews telling them to invest their hard-earned in long lost classics - and having been burned a few times before - would view another such review with a certain amount of scepticism. 

But this is a Light In The Attic Records release - and after 60 peerless reissues of obscurities that truly deserve reappraisal – LITA have done it again. Beautiful presentation, extraordinary sound quality and songs that beggar the question – how the hell did this little gem get lost in the first place? 

MICHAEL CHAPMAN hails from Leeds in England and was 28 when he recorded his second LP "Fully Qualified Survivor" for EMI’s progressive label imprint Harvest. His debut album "Rainmaker" issued in July 1969 was only Harvest’s 5th LP at that time and signalled the arrival of a major Guitar Player and Rock singer-songwriter. 

1. Aviator
2. Naked Ladies And Electric Ragtime 
3. Stranger In The Room
4. Postcards Of Scarborough 
5. Fishbeard Sunset
6. Soulful Lady [Side 2]
7. Rabbit Hills
8. March Rain 
9. Kodak Ghosts 
10. Andru’s Easy Rider
11. Trinkets & Rings

The LP "Fully Qualified Survivor" by MICHAEL CHAPMAN was released March 1970 on Harvest SHVL 764 in the UK and Capitol/Harvest SW-816 in the USA – and even though it actually charted in the UK at No. 45 on the album charts - it’s a rare record on vinyl and UK originals can command upwards of £100. 

This February 2011 reissue on Light In The Records LITA 060 (Barcode 0826853006026) is a straightforward transfer of that 1970 album remastered from the 1st generation EMI tapes by NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London (46:32 minutes). The sound quality is fabulous - clear, warm and full of presence - and fully realises the original quality production values of GUS DUDGEON (of David Bowie and Elton John fame). 

The original gatefold artwork has been retained but upgraded to a lovely silver effect on the card digipak (they’ve also issued it on a beautiful Vinyl Version using the same silver effect artwork – a future collectable). The booklet is an impressive 32-pages long with liner notes by MICK HOUGHTON that feature new interviews with Chapman in 2010. Photos and archive material provided by the artist himself feature black and white snaps of him and the other musicians in the studio, on tour, reproductions of press releases and reviews and so on.

It opens with the epic "Aviator" – a nine and half-minute long acoustic song that has touches of Tim Buckley and Nick Drake in its languid pace. The cello is by Paul Buckmaster and the Violin by Johnny Van Derek. But – and this is a matter of taste – you’re met with his nasally drone of a voice which you will either embrace or loath. It all sounds a bit effected now, but if you give it time, there’s rewards later. Chapman was also a very accomplished guitar player (Bert Jansch, Stefan Grossman and John Renbourn jump to mind) and there follows the first of the album’s three acoustic-instrumentals "Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime". With his foot tapping in the background, it’s a very pretty ditty and it also emphasises the superlative NICK ROBBINS remaster. The sheer musicality of "Postcards From Scarborough" is shocking – and the strings added by Dudgeon are lovely. "Fishbeard Sunset" is the second instrumental and is a 40-second introduction to a great song - "Soulful Lady". It also heralds a major playing talent – MICK RONSON on Guitar. He crops up again on "Kodak Ghosts" and his contributions are so exciting – rocking like a madman – loose and inspired ("The Man Who Sold The World", "Ziggy" and "Hunky Dory" with Bowie lay ahead). 

Side 2 is far better than Side 1 in my book – giving a run of truly superb tunes. "Rabbit Hills" is my favourite on here – a beautifully realised acoustic song with warm words and a haunting melody that still sounds sweet four decades on (lyrics above). "March Rain" with its Cello, Strings and Acoustic guitar arrangement could be Nick Drake circa "Bryter Layter" – so impressive. Mick Ronson adds lovely electric guitar licks to the treated Chapman acoustic guitars on the mid-tempo "Kodak Ghosts". The fantastically bluesy "Andru's Easy Rider" starts out with him on Piano but then goes into this huge John Fahey 12-string slide-guitar blues-boogie that you wish would overstay its mere two-minute duration. It segues into a funky Tabla and Guitar album finisher called "Trinkets & Rings" which features his trademark nonchalant vocals and electric guitar licks in the background. It’s impressive stuff, it really is…

To sum up - like his fellow Harvest Label mate Roy Harper (and nearest musical comparison), Chapman remains a bit of an unknown even in deep rock circles (Keef Hartley, Bryn Haworth, Mick Greenwood, Judee Sill, Karen Dalton and Fred Neil are others).  But you have to say that this is a smart reissue on the part of Light In The Attic Records in a long line of them (Lou Bond, Kris Kristofferson and Rodriguez come to mind - see reviews) and I’m glad I took a chance on it. I’ve subsequently bought the 2006 remaster of his "Millstone Grit" album from 1973 on Deram and it’s a cracker too. 

In 2015 at the age of 74 - it probably seems slightly odd to Michael Chapman now to be the subject of adoration and rediscovery for Folk/Rock he penned 45-years ago – but better late than never. A top job done boys and a major reissue for 2011…

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