Roger Chapman's second studio album, Mail Order Magic, was recorded under some tough 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.
AllMusic Review by Patrick Little