Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My New Favorite Record, Or How I Blame Gordon Lightfoot For My Ignorance Regarding Michael Chapman

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.


buzzbabyjesus said...

I'm right there with you. I like the Kick and snare in opposite speakers. Ronno sounds terrific as usual.
I'm going to track this down.

David James said...

Been a Michael Chapman fan for years, grab a listen to "The man who hated mornings", terrific album.

Dr Wu said...

Thanks for the heads-up. Really loved what I heard. Along with the Bowie, sensed a little Terry Callier vibe as well.

erik said...

whoa, holy Baader Meinhof effect: 2 of the tiny handful of music blogs I read every day posted about this dude on the same day. Guess I should check him out!


Anonymous said...

I bought this album ages ago thinking it was Mike Chapman of Chinn/ Chapman fame. I'll have to go back and give it another go.

Kodak Ghost said...

And don't forget the wonderful bass work of Rick Kemp. I love his early acoustic stuff, but am a great fan of "Wrecked again".

Also make sure you listen to some of his live stuff which is pretty electrifying... and scary if you are a guitarist!

Sal Nunziato said...

@David James

Great record. Listened to it all. The Dylan cover is worth the price of admission alone.


Thanks for the link.


"Wrecked Again" or "Rainmaker" next?

David James said...

Next, a revisit of Doll By Doll's albums?

A walk in the woods said...

Which album has the Dylan cover on it?

Sal Nunziato said...


"The Man Who Hated Mornings."

You can find it on a set called "Originals."

Or give me a few and I'll post it.

A walk in the woods said...

Nice, thanks! I do like the tunes you posted here - and of course it's also interesting that Dylan triangulates into the Chapman story additionally via Ronson on the Rolling Thunder tour.

Kodak ghost said...

Apologies for late reply. I think you have to do Rainmaker and go back to the beginning before you get "Wrecked Again), which is more electric.
Regards Ronno playing on the album, rumour has it that it was the first time he had played electric guitar. Whether this is true or not is questionable.