Did you ever predetermine what an artist or album sounded like without ever hearing a note?
Last month's issue of Uncut featured Michael Chapman in its "Album By Album" column. Without ever hearing a note of Chapman's work, I had decided many years ago that from his looks and album covers alone, his music was going to sound like Gordon Lightfoot. And that's that.
Then I read this article and saw things like "staggering solo guitar playing," "Hunky Dory," Mick Ronson and Aynsley Dunbar. Well...
The record which the mag calls "The Uncut Classic" is 1970's "Fully Qualified Survivor," featuring a pre-Bowie Mick Ronson on guitar, a pre-Steeleye Span Rick Kemp on bass and Gus Dudgeon twiddling knobs. I started there and am still there. Consider my mind officially blown. Yes, I'm sure it has a bit to do with my elation in not hearing anything that resembles Mr. Lightfoot, with all due respect to Gordo and his fans. But I cannot discount the fact that "Fully Qualified Survivor" is not only right in my wheelhouse, but a brilliant and singular record that quite possibly set the table for future works by David Bowie, Elton John and Pink Floyd.
The record delivers songs like "Aviator" and "Soulful Lady" that have a sound and feel so much like Bowie's "Space Oddity" and "The Man Who Sold The World," it's hard to tell who was listening to who first. Or maybe credit needs to be given to Mick Ronson and Gus Dudgeon, who were the common denominators with both artists. ("Soulful Lady" could have sit comfortably on Side Two of McCartney's "Ram," as well. Check it out below.)
Ronson's guitar work is unmistakable. If you're a fan, this will satisfy you deeply. But a lot must be said for Chapman's acoustic work, as well. Alongside the early rock and glam feel of the two songs I just mentioned, there are songs like "Andru's Easy Rider" and "Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime" which show off Michael Chapman's ability at acoustic slide blues and fingerpicking folk respectively, similar to Roy Harper and Bert Jansch.
I am obsessing over "Fully Qualified Survivor" a bit. So much so, I have yet to check out his debut "Rainmaker" or his official follow-up "Wrecked Again," both of which received praise.