Chapman’s 1970 release Fully Qualified Survivor was Chapman’s masterpiece. Until this day, it’s considered as one of the best UK folk-rock albums, and every second in this album justifies this title.
In Rainmaker, Chapman was still busy playing out of this world acoustic guitar leaks, showing just how brilliant of a guitar player he is. But in Survivor, it all changed. This album is far more produced, a tightly glued band album, led by Chapman. The songwriting level jumps 100 level higher and it’s surprising again to see the huge gap he made in just a year.
The opening track, 9:30 minutes of Avatar, is really the DNA of this album. A hazy, dreamy song, poetic and full of longing, yet keeps a solid power to it, even if it remains basically an acoustic and violin based song. This vibe will return again in the album in songs like Rabbit Hills and Kodak Ghosts, but the production takes the ballads one steps further with the added strings accompanying, in the brilliant Postcards Of Scarborough and March Rain. Still, one of my favorite tracks in the album, being a guitarist, is the second track Electric Ragtime and Naked Ladies, a solo acoustic instrumental ragtime which I personally straggled a lot with, until I managed to learn how to play it.
Besides Chapman’s work with the open tunings playing and evocative singing and obviously beautiful and perfect songwriting, the dominant strings and cello parts, there’s a cool guitarist who steals the attention with his grungy Les Paul sound. His name is Mick Ronson. No one knew who was Mick Ronson back then, but his work in this album drew the attention of one David Bowie, who took him to be the guitarist of Ziggy Stardust’s Spiders.
His playing is just perfect, brings the bluesy crunchy vibe that a track like Stranger In The Room needed.
This album, if I was asked to recommend the best album to start a folk rock albums collection, is positioned probably in the top five. It’s a school of production, of song delivery, songwriting and playing.