Roger Chapman's second studio album, Mail Order Magic, was recorded under some Roger Chapmantough conditions for the singer. Punk and new wave were sweeping England of any "oldies" acts, and Chapman was having trouble taking root in his own country. In addition, the label to which he had signed was folding, giving him a deadline to finish and release the album. Meanwhile Chapman, still high from the success of continental tours, tried to up the ante by recording with better players, including old Family-mate John Wetton. But lack of finances bumped the sessions from studio to studio, and Terry Barham and Paul Smykle (notable for reggae production) were brought in to stitch together the recordings into a pressable album. Considering all of this, the results were fantastic. The hard-edged rock, especially "Unknown Soldier," suited Chapman's edgy voice best. The Shortlist also served up R&B and even a little experimental music ("Ground Floor" sounds like an early demo of "Higher Ground"). Chapman would find a more comfortable career down the road, but the material would rarely be as convincing and as powerful as this.(Patrick Little)
It's hard to keep reviews of obscure 22-year-old recordings in context. In some ways, this CD has not aged as well as others in Roger Chapman's extensive solo discography, yet one has to recall the dreadful state of corporate-run FM radio back then (and now).
This recording is one of the better ones from Chappo's collaborations with guitarist Geoff Whitehorn. Standouts include Unknown Soldier (Can't Get To Heaven), Mail Order Magic, Making The Same Mistake, Barman, Higher Ground, and Ground Floor. Poli Palmer, another Family alum, co-wrote Barman, Higher Ground, and Ground Floor, and John Wetton kicks in some nice bass chops on a couple of tracks. Whitehorn delivers consistent, solid lead guitar, showing some flashes of brilliance (but ultimately making me miss Charlie Whitney's lead all the more).
Chappo is the main attraction, of course, and he delivers the goods, really shining on the title cut, Unknown Soldier, and He Said, She Said.
I doubt that this CD won Chappo many new fans outside of Germany, but it certainly is essential listening for his core faithful.(By Loce The Wizard)
01 Unknown Soldier (Can't Get To Heaven) - Roger Chapman 3:44
02 He Was She Was - Roger Chapman & Geoff Whitehorn 4:48
03 Barman - Roger Chapman & Poli Palmer 5:24
04 Right To Go - Roger Chapman 4:05
05 Ducking Down- Roger Chapman & Geoff Whitehorn 3:53
06 Making The Same Mistake - Roger Chapman & Geoff Whitehorn 4:58
07 Another Little Hurt - Roger Chapman & Tim Hinkley 3:53
08 Mail Order Magic - Roger Chapman 4:26
09 Higher Ground - Roger Chapman 4:15
10 Ground Floor 1:56 - Roger Chapman & Poli Palmer
Roger Chapman - Harmonica, Vocals
Geoff Whitehorn - Guitar
Jerome Rimson - Bass, Vocals
John Wetton - Bass
Tim Hinkley - Keyboards
Poli Palmer - Synthesizer
John Halsey, Les Binks, Mitch Mitchell - Drums