John Martyn (RIP)


Band members                              Related acts

- John Martyn - vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards

 

  backing musicians (1971)

- Smiley De Jonnes -- percussion

- Beverly Martyn -- guitar, backing vocals

- Roger Powell -- drums

- Tony Reeves --bass

- Danny Thompson -- acoustic bass

- Richard Thompson -- guitar

- Ian Whiteman -- keyboards

  backing musicians (1985)

- Barry Reynolds - guitar 

- James Hooker - keyboards

- Andy Lyden - syn drums

- Jim Prime - keyboards 

- Robin Rankin - keyboards 

- Steven Stanley - syn drums 

- Uzziah "Sticky" Thompson - percussion 

- Alan Thomson - bass, keyboards, syn drums 
- Colin Tully - sax 

- Jack Waldman - keyboards 

 

  backing musicians (1987)

- Arran Ahman -- drums

- David Ball -- bass

- Jeff Castle -- keyboards

- Danny Cummings -- percussion

- Foster Patterson -- keyboards

- Colin Tully -- sax


 

- none known

 

 


 

Genre: folk

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Bless the Weather

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS-9167

Year: 1971

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear; gatefold sleeve

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 274

Price: SOLD $30.00

 

Best time to play:  Sunday morning over coffee and the newspaper

 

Similar things have happened to me a couple of times before, but this one spooked me a bit.  Back in January 2009 I was at a charity store and stumbled across a big pile of records.  Scattered through the stack were a bunch of John Martyn album.  I think I ended up buying eight of them.   I listened to one of them that weekend  (think it was the compilation set "So Far So Good") and the rest of them went into my to-listen-to pile.   Within a week I read that Martyn had dead from pneumonia.  

 

Co-produced by Martyn and John Wood, 1971's "Bless the Weather" was surprisingly impressive for an album that was reportedly recorded in three days.  From a marketing standpoint the album was mildly interesting in that it stood as a return to a true solo career.  Martyn's two previously releases had been full out collaborations with then-wife Beverly-Kutner-Martyn.  Island Records president Chris Blackwell felt it would be easier to market Martyn as a solo act so Beverly found herself relegated to a backing role on the album, appearing on one track - 'Let the Good Things Come'.  Very quiet, personal, and introspective, the album was full of pretty acoustic numbers that underscored Martyn's likeable voice and fantastic gifts on acoustic guitar. The album also introduced Martyn's use of the Echoplex tape delay effect on his guitar (you can check out the effect on the instrumental 'Glistening Glyndbourne').   I've always agreed with folks who hear echoes of Nick Drake on these tracks, but some of the jazz-tinged numbers also reminded me a bit of early-'70s Van Morrison.  Certainly not going to be for everyone and yes, with the exception of the electric blues number 'Sugar Lump' and the jazz-rocker 'Glistening Glyndbourne', the remaining tracks had a tendency to blend together if you aren't paying attention.  ''Course most folks will be paying rapt attention.  Those minor criticism aside, it's a great album.

 

- As mentioned above, I don't care what folks say about the comparison - there's simply no denying 'Go Easy' bares way more than a passing resemblance to the late Nick Drake.  The song's quasi-jazzy feel also reminds me a bit of early-'70s Van Morrison.   Not exactly top-40 commercial, but those multi-tracked vocals and these song had one of those sinewy, slinky melodies that you find yourself unexpectedly humming late at night.  Great tune.   rating: **** stars

- One of my favorite Martyn songs, 'Bless the Weather' was a gorgeous acoustic ballad made even better by the light jazzy feel (Danny Thompson's acoustic bass was fantastic); the catchy title track refrain, and the fact Martyn didn't mumble the lyrics.   Damn if the man couldn't play some acoustic guitar !!!   The studio version is better, but YouTube has a nice January 1978 live performance of the song at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofPpzAdhIOU    rating: **** stars

- The album's first disappointment, 'Sugar Lump' surrounded Martyn with a bland blues-rock arrangement; imagine a second-tier Canned Heat number and you'll get a feel for this one.  The highlight was Richard Thompson's guitar.  rating: ** stars

- Maybe due to the atypical orchestration (I could never figure out if it was xylophone, or steel drums), 'Walk To the Water' was another album highlight.  I don't know if Martyn ever cut anything that was truly funky, but this sure came close.   rating; **** stars

- I  guess the best way to describe 'Just Now' is as an acoustic singer/songwriter song for people who didn't like acoustic singer/songwriters.  Simply a gorgeous track with Ian Whiteman providing some of the prettiest piano you've ever heard.  For anyone interested, Martyn redid the song on his "No Little Boy".  The remake featured the late Levon Helm sharing vocals and gave the song a cool, upbeat arrangement.    rating: **** stars

- Another one that's always struck me as having a Nick Drake vibe, 'Head and Heart' was a winner due to Martyn's killer acoustic guitar (if you're a fan of the instrument you just have to hear this track), Thompson's funky acoustic bass runs, and the song's cool bossa-nova tinge.  The subtle melody literally creeps up on you and won't leave your memory cells alone.  Crap, I'm humming it now.   rating: ***** stars

- One of the album's pettiest ballads, 'Let the Good Things Come' also served as then-wife Beverly's lone contribution - she provides the stunning counter-point vocals.  This one made me wonder what Chris Blackwell was thinking about when he pushed Martyn to make this a solo album.   rating: **** stars

- I'm consistently wowed by how Martyn managed to take a fairly simple riff and turn it into an engaging, if not mesmerizing event (though I could never figure out his guitar tunings).  The glistening acoustic ballad  'Back Down the River' (just Martyn and an acoustic guitar) is a perfect example of that charm.  rating: **** stars

- Ah, the instrumental 'Glistening Glyndbourne' and the introduction of the famous Echoplex guitar effect ...  First a warning; the first two minutes of the song sound like an extended tune up session.  Great time for a quick bathroom break, or an opportunity to check your email.  Luckily the song finally kicks in showcasing a percussion and keyboard dense rhythm pattern with Martyn's guitar slapped on top. I guess the best way I could describe the Echoplex effect is to tell you it adds lots of layers of Martyn's rhythmic guitar to the mix.   Curiously lots of folks label this one as a psychedelic track.  I'd tell you it sounds completely jazzy to my ears.  Regardless, it's pretty entertaining.  rating: **** stars

- The opening chords have always reminded me of a Bruce Cochburn song and I have to admit to being confused with respect to Martyn's decision to close the album with a cover of 'Singing In the Rain'.  On the other hand, he brings a clear sense of joy and enthusiasm to the song.   For anyone interested, YouTube has a jazzier performance of the show recorded for a 1978 performance on the German Rockpalast show:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eEqKdzhVWk   rating: *** stars

 

A wonderful place for someone to started exploring the late Martyn's extensive recording catalog.   

 

"Bless the Weather" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Go Easy   (John Martyn) - 4:11

2.) Bless the Weather   (John Martyn) - 4:24

3.) Sugar Lump   (John Martyn) - 3:42

4.) Walk To the Water   (John Martyn) - 2:42

5.) Just Now   (John Martyn) - 3:35

 

(side 2)

1.) Head and Heart   (John Martyn) - 4:48

2.) Let the Good Things Come   (John Martyn) - 3:00

3.) Back Down the River   (John Martyn) - 2:36

4.) Glistening Glyndbourne (instrumental(   (John Martyn) - 5:30

5.) Singing In the Rain   (Nacio Herb Brown - Arthur Free) - 1:30

 

 

 


Genre: folk

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  So Far So Good

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS-9484

Year: 1977

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4428

Price: $9.00

An impressive, if abbreviated 'best of' collection, 1977's "So Far So Good" pulled together the cream of John Martyn's first decade as a professional musician.  As an overview, one could argue that the set wasn't nearly complete since the nine tracks were pulled from three of his eight studio LPs.  Since Martyn's largely unknown to American audiences, this is a good introduction to his classy catalog.  There are few folkies who manage to inject as much rock and roll energy into their performances.  While all nine tracks are worth hearing, highlights include the opener 'May You Never', 'Over the Hill' and the killer live cover of Skip James' 'I'd Rather Be the Devil'.  Nice liner notes/history from Brian Blevins.  Definitely worth finding.

 

"So far So Good" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) May You Never   (John Martyn) - 3:40

2.) Bless the Weather  (John Martyn) - 4:24

3.) Head and Heart  (John Martyn) - 4:51

4.) Over the Hill  (John Martyn) - 2:52

5.) Spencer the Rover (traditional arranged by John Martyn) - 4:07

 

(side 2)

1.) Glistening Glyndebourne (instrumental)  (John Martyn) - 6:30

2.) Solid Air  (John Martyn) - 5:43

3.) One Day without You  (John Martyn) - 2:56

4.) I'd Rather Be the Devil   (Skip James) - 5:50

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: * (1 star)

Title:  Sapphire

Company: Island

Catalog: 90248-1

Year: 1985

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: minor ring wear; cutout notch along edge

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4450

Price: $5.00

 

For 1985's self-produced "Sapphire", John Martyn seems to have decided to try to assume Robert Palmer's identity.  Unfortunately, as much as I like Martyn and have followed him from his folkie days, through his misguided Phil Collins infatuation, here it gets hard to say anything nice.  Well, hopefully Martyn had fun recording the album since the sessions took place at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas.  The comparison with the late Palmer  isn't meant as a joke.  Palmer's even given special thanks in the liner notes and Martyn seems to have made an effort to appropriate the former's mid-1980s sound.  Like much of Palmer's material, tracks such as the title track, ''You Know and 'Watching Her Eyes' are rife with cold and anonymous synthesizers.   Eleswhere, tracks such as 'Coming In On Time' and 'Rope-Soul'd' sport a cold, pseudo-adult contemporary sound that you might hear in a grocery chain.  Even more frustrating Martyn seems to have decided it's a good idea to sing with a drunken slur, or with his cheeks stuffed full of marbles - it actually becomes funny hearing him slur the lyrics on songs such as 'Acid Rain'.  Joe Cocker where are you when we need you?

  

"Sapphire" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Sapphire   (John Martyn) - 5:18

2.) Over the Rainbow   (Arlen - Harburg() - 3:25

3.) You Know   (John Martyn) - 3:14

4.) Watching Her Eyes   (John Martyn - Alan Thomson) - 3:55

5.) Fisherman's Dreams   (John Martyn) - 4:18

 

(side 2)

1.) Acid Rain   (John Martyn - Alan Thomson) - 4:13

2.) Mad Dog Days   (John Martyn - Alan Thomson) -  5:00

3.) Climb the Walls   (John Martyn) - 4:17

4.) Coming In On Time   (John Martyn) - 3:38

5.) Rope-Soul'd   (John Martyn - Alan Thomson - Barry Reynolds) - 4:46

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Foundations

Company: Island

Catalog: 90853-1

Year: 1986

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 317

Price: $9.00

 

Best time to play:  Late Saturday evening after everyone's gone to bed.

 

A nine track live set, 1986's "Foundations" captured John Martyn and his touring band on the road in support of his previous "Sapphire" and "Piece By Piece" studio collections. Recorded at Londom's forum, it was kind of iInteresting that only four tracks ('Mad Dog Days', 'Over the Rainbow', 'Angeline', and 'John Wayne') were pulled from those two previous studio albums.  The rest of the set was rounded out by older Martyn classics ('May You Never') and a couple of songs for his next studio album ('Deny This Love', 'Send Me One Line', and 'The Apprentice').  To be honest, anyone who was a fan of Martyn's '60s and '70s catalog was likely to find this kind of an odd album with Island executives apparently working under the assumption they could pawn Martyn off to an audience that was into adult contemporary pop and slightly new age-ish moves.  Noting Martyn was wearing expensive suits, stylish dark sunglasses and wearing his hair in a pony tail, left you under the impression he was willing to go along with marketing moves.  In spite of the dated sound (the collection epitamizes that '80s sound),, personally I didn't think it was all that bad.  Certainly not something you'd want to spin everyday, but it had a place in Martyn's lengthy catalog.

  

"Foundations" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Mad Dog Days   (John Martyn) - 6:02

One of two songs off the earlier "Sapphire" album, yeah, his voice sounded very much like Joe Cocker's and the song had a distinctive '80s feel (complete with adult contemporary sax), but all told 'Mad Dog Days' wasn't bad - kind of a Miami Vice background music vibe.  The song also benefited from a nice Martyn guitar solo.  The end-of-song dedication to Margaret Thatcher was funny.   YouTube has a live performance of the song at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkI9l6bMDYg   rating: *** stars

2.) Angeline   (John Martyn) - 5:28

Off of the "Piece By Piece" LP, 'Angeline' was one of his prettier ballads, though the vocal was a bit rough and once again the '80s arrangement (including Colin Tully's tasteful sax solo) gave if a needless Phil Collins-esque feel.   YouTube has another clip from the 1986 Foundations tour:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BOxDRAwaVQ  rating: *** stars

3.) The Apprentice   (John Martyn) - 4:50

Hum, Martyn gets slinky and funky ...  well as slinky and funky as a middle aged white guy can get.   Give it a B-.   This YouTube clip's from an early '90s tour.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIxtyqQIQqk   rating: *** stars

4.) May You Never   (John Martyn) - 4:10

Yes, dating back to 1971 (he re-recorded it for 1973's "Solid Air" LP), 'May You Never' was one of his best known songs, but to be honest, I'm not sure the full band arrangement added much to the overall effect.   I'd actually argue that the song lost much of its appeal amidst this MOR arrangement.   rating: *** stars

5.) Deny This Love   (John Martyn) - 4:32

I guess 'Deny This Love' was the album's most commercial track (a couple of years later if was released as a UK single).  Technically it was quite good, but it sounded like one of those songs that had been with top-40 airplay in mind.  Very calculated and cold.  Not sure if it's live since it's only Martyn and keyboardist Foster Patterson, but there's a cool performance video of the duo playing the song in an abandoned Glasgow subway station: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAmaB1rKggk   rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Send Me One Line   (John Martyn) - 5:03

One of the 'new' songs, 'Send Me One Line' was another pretty ballad, but suffered from a gravelly vocal - Martyn literally sounded like he was singing with a mouth full of marbles on this one.  rating: *** stars

2.) John Wayne   (John Martyn) - 7:38

'John Wayne' is one of those Martyn songs that's puzzled me - I'm not sure if it's great, or seven minutes of U2-styled pomposity.  Definitely one of his stranger tunes.  This isn't from the "Foundations" tour, but was worth linking to since the performance includes support from guitarist David Gilmour:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp6y8ed7yVk    rating: *** stars

3.) Johnny Too Bad   (Bailey - Beckford - Crooks - John Martyn) - 6:50

Martyn and company decide to rock out ...   sounds odd, but the results were actually quite impressive.  YouTube has a live performance of the song (recorded a couple of years later):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_Jdeaf4mF8   rating: *** stars

4.) Somewhere Over the Rainbow   (H. Arlen - E. Harburg) - 6:08

I know Martyn fans rave over his cover of the classic 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', but the somg's attraction is completely lost on my ears.   Here it sounds dark and biitert rather than a song of hope and redemption.   rating: *** stars

 

 

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