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rainmaker
Rainmaker

Michael Chapman, Rainmaker (Light in the Attic)

One of the beneficial side-effects of the current folk boom is the attention it's brought to Sixties pioneer spirits, with reissues of such as Roy Harper and Michael Chapman, whose debut, Rainmaker, was one of the first batch of releases on EMI's hippie label Harvest in 1969.

It's aged remarkably well, thanks to the dextrous diversity of Chapman's technique. An instinctive improviser, he remains perhaps the closest English equivalent to John Fahey, drawing on blues, jazz, ragtime and Indian raga tonalities besides the core folk stylings: the instrumental "Thank You PK 1944" is a dizzying whirl of styles. He only started to sing shortly before its recording, but Chapman's voice on "You Say" and "It Didn't Work Out" has a gnarled presence that speaks to the ages.

4/5 stars 27th January 2012 The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk

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A contemporary of fellow U.K. folk guitar stars Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, John Martyn and Roy Harper, Michael Chapman never quite found the cult audience his talent deserved. Until now, at least - having released a fine record (Time Past Time Passing) a couple of years ago apparently alerted the cognoscenti to his body of work, which Light in the Attic has begun reissuing. Rainmaker is his debut LP, originally released in 1969, and it's as clear a statement of intent as any debut can be.

Like his fellow travelers, Chapman worked up a blend of folk, jazz and blues, with dashes of rock & roll as well. A fine picker, he's certainly at home with instrumentals both pastoral (the blues-racked "Sunday Morning," the title track) and finger-busting (the Middle Eastern-tinged "Thank You P.K., 1944"). But it's as a singer/songwriter that Chapman really makes his mark, blending his acoustic pyrotechnics with matter-of-factly melancholy lyrics and a plainspoken vocal style in "Not So Much a Garden -  More Like a Maze," "It Didn't Work Out" and "No Song to Sing." The record reaches an undeniable peak with "No-One Left to Care," as Chapman casually relates his loneliness during the verses, then dismisses his own dark cloud with bursts of raga-ridden free jazz. Cleanly produced by Gus Dudgeon (fresh from "Space Oddity" and Elton John's early work), Rainmaker is a true find, an eye-opening LP for fans of contemporary acoustic music and a reminder to longtime fans what a talent Chapman has always been.

This edition includes a half-dozen bonus cuts, including three strong B-sides ("Mozart Lives Upstairs," "On My Way Again," "Bert Jansch Meets Frankenstein") and some fine tunes ("Among the Trees," "Anniversary," the ironically-titled instrumental "Sleepy") that have inexplicably remained unreleased until now. The excellence of these tracks just points to how on fire Chapman was in the late 60s, and serve only to enhance what's already a marvelous record.

DOWNLOAD: "No-One Left to Care," "No Song to Sing," "Not So Much a Garden - More Like a Maze" MICHAEL TOLAND

Blurt Magazine 03 2012 (http://blurt-online.com)

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On the inside cover of 'Rainmaker', the first of three Harvest albums by Michael Chapman, along the collected statements, impressions and affectionate evocations of friends and associates there is one, which says: 'Mike's own individual music making has evolved from so many difference sources that if anyone tries to classify him they'll be in trouble'. I doubt if anyone who knows anything about his background or has heard any of his songs would be tempted to do that. He emerged from a long erratic involvement in a rather nebulous folk tradition to write very personal and unusual songs, full of rhythm and unexpected corners and unlikely dimensions.

"Rainmaker", in addition to containing what is for me his most effective and charismatic song "Not So Much A Garden", establishes the themes - isolation and loneliness in a variety of settings, people and moments remembered, the hopelessness of trying to hold on to virtually anything... It also shows him to be a guitarist of great expressiveness and sensitivity, amongst the most accomplished I've heard.

 

 

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Rainmaker Q:April 1998

Reviewed: April 1998 Release Date: 06-Apr-1998

You can never quite tell if Michael Chapman's drawling vocal is a homage to imbibed country veterans or if his emotive sneer represents the fatality of his folkloric stories. Either way, his debut album from 1969, Rainmaker, and the following year's Fully Qualified Survivor are packed with emotion-soaked gems. Having served his time on the northern folk circuit, these albums must have come as a shock to the ear-tugging traditionalists. Electric guitars, sentimental strings, loose snare drums and arrangements that owe as much to jazz as Ewan MacColl, make Chapman's albums strange hybrids and all the more attractive for it. Nearly 30 years on, his dreamy folk groove, a grittier take on John Martyn with a splash of Roy Harper, and some spacey guitar from Mick Ronson on Survivor is well worth a second look. Reviewed by Dave Henderson

Rainmaker Modern Dance 1998

Chapman, born in Leeds, came on to the scene, as it were, back in 1969, on the superb label Harvest. He'd 'served' his time on the folk circuit, and had built up quite a strong reputation as a powerful singer, and adept lyricist. When this album first came out, it caused quite a stir. And when you play it, it's no wonder. As I said, the Harvest label had a certain ooomph about it, and Rainmaker underlined this. There's a total of sixteen tracks on this re-release, five of which are bonus tracks, three of which are previously unreleased. Helping Chapman on here is Danny Thompson, Aynsley Dunbar, Clem Clempson, Rick Kemp and Barry Morgan. The title track is a cracker, but the opener, It Didn't Work Out is a stunner. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that all the songs on here are worthy of more attention. Even the unreleased tracks are damn fine, which, for 'filler's, is a true bonus! No Song To Sing, On My Way Again, You Say, and Sunday Morning all have that certain special something.

 

Links

www.Q4music.com

Modern Dance

fully qualified survivor

Michael Chapman, apart from being a prolific English songwriter whose revered work spans four decades, is probably the best guitar smith you have never heard. While his skills are best evidenced on this album’s predecessor, Rainmaker, the original songwriting and tight production, seemingly informed by all music that came before it, steal the show here.

It’s as if every style of rock music were somehow harnessed and tamed into Michael’s unique folk vision. The album sounds fresh as anything recorded today, yet still of its time, sparkling with punchy drum fills and orchestral arrangements. The album opens with an understated triumph: experimental strings create a soundscape for the soothing rhythm of “Aviator” to “take my time away.” I cannot think of another 9 minute song that doesn’t seem to last long enough. The lyrics on the album evoke a feeling of hopelessness, and there is a kind of sad tone but all together I believe it can be an uplifting album. This may be thanks to sharing much of the same personnel responsible for early albums by Elton John and David Bowie. During Fully Qualified’s hardest moments, though, I hear a striking resemblance to Bowie’s classic Man Who Sold The World.

“Stranger In The Room” and “Soulful Lady” lend a classic rock balance to softer songs like the immortal “Postcards From Scarborough“, by far the most famous Chapman song. Through several interludes, we are treated to Chapman’s masterful six-string suites. I know my fair share of fingerpicking but still have trouble believing that “Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime” is actually performed on one guitar by one person. In any case, it’s a piece that should be standard fare in guitar workshops the world over. But note that I’m not talking about the electric guitar leads, performed by Mick Ronson who would later team up with Bowie, for Space Oddity, thanks to this record.

In short, Fully Qualified Survivor is an exceptional collection of songs and your best introduction to one of England’s great underappreciated artists. words/ j. nardelli - aquarium drunkard blog 02 2011

Michael Chapman Fully Qualified Survivor

Most music fans carry around a mental short list of musicians who, in their minds, are woefully underappreciated not only by the general public but by other music fans. No matter what the genre--folk, metal, hip-hop, or whatever the latest permutation of electronic dance music is called--we can all think of a performer who in our estimation deserves wider name recognition and popularity. I'm no different, and there are plenty of people I can think of who deserve greater cultural regard (some names that spring to mind while I'm sitting here: Tony Hazzard, Tom Rapp, John Kongos, Roy Harper, Tim Hollier....). But today I'd like to single out one particular gentleman from my mental list and tell you why you should care about him.

That man's name is Michael Chapman.

Born and raised in Hunslet, a heavily industrial inner-city section of Leeds in the north of England, Michael Chapman started his professional life as an art teacher. He moonlighted as a guitarist, though, and it was a great time to be one in England, as people like Davy Graham and Bert Jansch were redefining the sound of acoustic folk music with their intricate fingerstyle playing. Chapman began to play the folk circuits in Cornwall and London in the late 60s. Perhaps it was his early environs, but Chapman seemed to have a natural facility for the blues, and his early sets leaned heavily on tunes like "See See Rider" and "Key to the Highway."

It wasn't long before Chapman was writing his own songs, though, and what songs they were. He seemed to have a world of living behind even his earliest efforts; it's a cliché to talk about how young singers sound like old singers, but Chapman's vocals had a grizzled, weary tone to them that perfectly suited his subject matter, which was reflective without being naval-gazing, and often dealt with the persistence of unhappy memories. His songs tended to focus on the aftermath of relationships gone sour, carefully sifting through regrets and recriminations to get to the truth behind the ways people construct and deconstruct their lives together.

One of these songs, the bar-setting "It Didn't Work Out," led off his first album, Rainmaker, released by Harvest in 1969. Rainmaker created the template for the rest of the albums that Chapman recorded for Harvest: mournful, lyrically acute songs mixed in with accomplished guitar instrumentals. The guitar instrumentals weren't filler, either; by this time, Chapman's fluid fingerstyle playing was just as accomplished as the playing of some of his better-known peers.

"Kodak Ghosts," the song featured in this post, originally appeared on Chapman's second album, Fully Qualified Survivor, from 1970. It's quintessential Chapman, and in this stripped-down version from his guest appearance on Hatch's show in 2005, you can hear how his skillful guitar playing propels the song's narrative about a guy sitting around after a failed relationship with only his dog for company (the dog is a nice Chapmanesque touch). He seems to be trying to convince himself that any effect the relationship had on him is over, even as he obsesses about his lover’s future partners and revisits old love haunts. The Kodak ghosts of the title are never mentioned, but you can imagine the old photos strewn on the guy's kitchen table, representations of a dead affair that continues to haunt his mind.

Before the song proper starts, check out that intro: Chapman jokes in his usual sardonic manner (live, he’s a very funny storyteller), and then he tosses off a few dazzling runs ornamented with harmonics that any other guitarist would kill for. For Chapman, it’s business as usual.

Chapman recorded four albums for Harvest, each one a gem and each one distinct from the other in its musical choices. In the mid-70s, he signed to Decca Records and moved in a rockier direction. Millstone Grit, the first of his Decca albums, signaled in its very title the way Chapman would go for much of the rest of the decade: tougher, harder, and louder. His electric period failed to set the world alight, however, and as the 80s and 90s went on, Chapman returned to a more folk and blues-based sound. He’s continued to make records at the rate of one every couple of years, and all of them have their merits; much like his contemporary Bert Jansch, who has continued to make good records while the world looks elsewhere, Michael Chapman has continued to be active artistically. His most recent release is called Time Past and Time Passing, released last year on Electric Ragtime Records

2009 Free Music Archive freemusicarchive.org

Michael Chapman, according to his bio, rose out of the Cornish folk circuit, which must have been a strange fit. His music surely has a melancholy feel that runs through plenty of traditional Cornish folk songs, but his biting edge and complex compositions must have surely made him an outlier. In fact, Chapman has been an outlier for much of his career, never quite garnering the praise he so deserved. But now, we’ve got a reissue of Fully Qualified Survivor, his sophomore album from 1970. It’s been out of print on vinyl for years. It’s never been issued on CD before. ( website ammendment first time on CD in USA, in europe/UK it has been reissued 3 times on CD and at least twice on vinyl )Oh, and it’s one of the best psych-folk records recorded. Ever.

Chapman’s first four albums came out on Harvest Records, an EMI-run British label that served as a hot bed for the psych-folk scene. It was home to, among others, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett’s solo work, and fellow prog-folk singer Roy Harper—whose own 1971 album for Harvest, Stormcock, is a masterpiece. If you’re looking for a comparison to Chapman’s sound, Harper is as close as you’ll get, at least in some ways. The first track on Full Qualified Survivor, “Aviator”, does little to break that comparison. It’s a nearly ten-minute epic, as moody and wandering as anything on Stormcock, though if you’re looking for an album of huge suites, it’s a bit of a red herring.

After that huge, excellent, opening, Chapman continues to develop his own deep, vibrant sound. “Aviator” sets it all up for you; once you set aside the heft, you’ll hear how it falls right in line with the other, tighter songs that follow. We get Chapman’s smoky rasp of a voice, his subtly intricate guitar playing, and his eye for a sharp line, a sinister bark, and a striking detail. It’s a stunning piece about isolation and paranoia—everyone seems to be coming from all angles to “take [his] time away”, and you can feel the world closing in on him, not only in his weary voice but in the silence on the other end of a ringing phone or the stones thudding on the roof.

The solitary feel Chapman establishes is nothing self-pitying or fey. There’s bite to these songs. You can feel him sneer when, say, someone tries to make a fool of him in “Stranger in the Room”. “You made your snide remarks”, he snaps, nearly spitting out the words. Even “Postcards from Scarborough”—a much sweeter bit of melancholia and the closest thing Chapman had to a hit—finds him mourning a lost love while still scowling at his memories themselves. “The food was so tasteless, the wine was so stale”, he growls, remembering his days alone.The lyrics are fully realized here, as well written as they are well delivered, but Fully Qualified Survivor is excellent because it is just as dynamic musically. Where other folk singers would rely on the acoustic guitar (and maybe some swelling strings or go the other route, the way Harper could) over building their songs with drifting layers, Chapman’s sound may align with the folk movement, but it is rock and roll at heart.

Chapman enlisted some Grade-A players for the record, including guitarist Mick Ronson. This six-string legend would also later work with Elton John and was of course part of David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars on top of having his own solo career, but his work on Chapman’s record is revelatory. Check the swelling run-ups that burst out of “Stranger in the Room”, not to the mention the solos. The thick riffs he drops on “Soulful Lady” are downright funky, while his gentle, distant work on “Rabbit Hills” adds an intricate layer of depth to Chapman’s already weary vocals. The sharpness of his guitar playing worked well with the complex basslines of Rick Kemp—the unsung hero of the record—who circles rumbling notes all around Chapman, giving the whole album a mossy rock feel we wouldn’t hear again—at least not at this brilliant level—until Neil Young’s On the Beach in 1974.Chapman leaves plenty of room to show off his own chops, of course, and mixes up the mood and tempo of the record with a series of solo acoustic interludes. His playing on these is lightning-quick and arresting—particularly the bright “Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime” and the stunning slide work of “Andru’s Easy Rider”—but it’s how these pieces manage to fit well in the seams between these full-band songs that makes them all the more striking.

Fully Qualified Survivor is, well, just what its title claims. This is an album more than worthy of being unearthed and of being appreciated anew. It avoids sounding like anyone else—and, let’s be honest, the early-70’s singer-songwriter camp can feel a bit homogeneous. It also avoids the over-sentimental schmaltz in which some of his peers indulged (another occasional drawback to that crowd).

In a time where we’re constantly trying to recapture sounds from the past, any past, it’s great to stumble upon the genuine article, something that came before and that did all the things people are still trying to do. It’s heartfelt. It’s dark. It’s intricate but immediate, rocking but lush. It does all those things at once, and it does them better than most artists could hope to do any one of them. So is Fully Qualified Survivor a lost classic? Is it a reason to rethink Michael Chapman’s place in folk and rock music? To both questions: A resounding hell yes.

www.popmatters.com

 

fully qualified survivor

Fully Qualified Survivor Q: April 1998

 
reportoire cd reissue sleeve

....the following year's Fully Qualified Survivor is packed with emotion-soaked gems. Having served his time on the northern folk circuit, these albums must have come as a shock to the ear-tugging traditionalists. Electric guitars, sentimental strings, loose snare drums and arrangements that owe as much to jazz as Ewan MacColl, make Chapman's albums strange hybrids and all the more attractive for it. Nearly 30 years on, his dreamy folk groove, a grittier take on John Martyn with a splash of Roy Harper, and some spacey guitar from Mick Ronson on Survivor is well worth a second look.

Reviewed by Dave Henderson

Though the basic mood remains the same as before, the sound has grown in density and penetration and there are no loose ends. Cello and violin spin and swoop around "Aviator" and carve a sound picture of despair within its rambling structure and haunting images. Beautiful.

 
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Fully Qualified Survivor Modern Dance 1998 reviewed with Rainmaker

Fully Qualified Survivor arrived a year later (after Rainmaker), in 1970. Again, it has that certain Harvest 'sound to it. Helping Chapman on this cracking album is the likes of Gus Dudgeon, Mick Ronson, and Rick Kemp. The album has 11 tracks, with the obvious standout being Postcards Of Scarborough. Mind you, that's not saying that the rest is below par. March Rain, The Aviator, Fishbeard Sunset, Kodak Ghosts and Andru's Easy Rider are simply gems. These two albums are absolutely superb and don't go thinking they're folk - they do, admittedly have elements of it in there, but not the finger in the ear stuff. Bloody good gear! (Dave W Hughes).

John Peel: This is Michael Chapman's second LP, the first was The Rainmaker. Michael Chapman is one of my favourite solo performers. Although there's a lot of dubbing and stuff going on by other musicians, I think he is one of the most interesting and inventive guitarists around. Certainly he has a very distinctive voice. I enjoy listening to him very much indeed. I didn't like the strings that erupted at one point, but of course it's not fashionable to like strings.

John Varnom: They fitted in quite well, though. I think my first impression was of an English Johnny Cash. In that first track, his voice really stood out over the backing, which was interesting without being overpowering. I think you can take liabilities with the backing because he's got a very strong voice. It's a nice LP although for some reason I haven't heard much of him before..

 

Links

John Peel's Peelenium

Modern Dance

Reportoire Records

See For Miles Records

Triste Magazine

Article on FQS

 

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see for miles reissue cd sleeve

John Peel: He's not as well known as he should be because he's not the sort of person who seeks after publicity. He's not groovy, he's not pretty, in fact he's the sort of person who might play right-half for Sheffield Wednesday. That's another thing I like about him, he's very honest and straightforward. I don't know whether his first record was a commercial success but it was certainly an artistic success.

We only listened to the first side but I know the tracks on the second side because he recorded them for Top Gear. One of them, Pictures of Scarborough, is being used as the theme of a programme on Yorkshire Television. It was one of the best tracks we had on Top Gear last year.

circa 1969

I'm immensely surprised by Michael Chapman's 'Fully Qualified Survivor', it's certainly the best of these five albums and the most satisfying collection of good songs on an album in months. Although his material occasionally appears introspective and even morose, they are such superb examples of the best in their field that nothing, but nothing, should prevent you from listening good and hard to his music. Apart from swinging his way through straight instrumental acoustic numbers like Naked Ladies and Electric Ragtime, and the twelve string, bottleneck thumping of Andru's Easy Rider, he has used Mick Ronson on lead guitar, Rick Kemp on bass and Blue Minks' Barry Morgan on drums to lend himself the necessary weight for stunning numbers like Soulful Lady. The tight solid sounds that these four guys get on the grittier stuff is nothing short of amazing. Mick Ronson uses his machinery like an expert veteran, though he probably is a expert veteran, although I can't place him. Stand up Mick and identify yourself. At times they swing so well that I'm reminded of the empathy that few groups apart from Cream have managed to get. It's incredibly difficult to convey the atmosphere that this guy manages to create in almost every one of his songs, his steady use of long, strong, strung-out melody lines delivered in an edgy laconic drawl is initially tedious but beautifully amusing once you get to the idea behind the form. Aviator is admittedly bleak commentary, stark, repetitive and hypnotic but none the less essential...

Paranoid but effective, it swells and thuds away, joined later by violin and cello sympathetically played by Paul Buckmaster and Johnny van Derek. Mick Ronson's guitar does tend to intrude now and again on Stranger In The Room, but I suspect that the voice was dubbed on over the backing track, not very well at that, hence the weird delayed echo effect that happens at times. Technical faults aside it's another good track but then they're almost all good. I'm beginning to get surprised and embarrassed by my own enthusiasm; it is however a minor masterpiece and one listen to it would serve to convince almost every discerning listener of its undoubted worth... (who wrote all this pretentious bullshit?) Soulful Lady is a chick's number all the way. I'm assured by someone who ought to know about these things that every lady who doesn't spend her day being bored and her nights being cool will, after one listen, hold her chin up, wiggle her ass and feel real foxy. I can dig that, play it to your mum. If someone with a benevolent bent (more pictures to conjure with) would like to let me know where Michael Chapman is, and what, if anything he's doing, I'd like to see him in concert sometime.

Triste Article on Fully Qualified Survivor

 
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window

Window

On his new album "Window", there is evidence too that the very characteristics, which give Mike his uniqueness, are beginning to hold him back. The weary, cracked, slurring vocal style, once so engaging and appropriate, is becoming affected to the point that occasionally it seems to be becoming a parody of itself. And he has chosen to pull the reins on a songwriting concept which should have gone past "Aviator" and into the timeless beyond. However there are some welcome touches of humour, not previously a feature of his work. Window is a disappointment to me, but only because of my expectations. It's still better than most, and may serve a good purpose by introducing people to Michael Chapman. Try to hear his other albums as well. And try to live awhile with his music. It should be a rewarding relationship.

circa 1970

 

 
window sleeve

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