John Martyn 

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 (1975)

- Al Anderson -- bass

- Tony Braunagel -- drums

- John "Rabbit" Bundrick -- piano

- Liam Genockey -- drums

- Beverley Martyn (Kutner) -- vocals 

- Keshav Sathe -- tabla

- Danny Thompson -- double bass 

- Terry Wilson -- bass


  backing musicians (1982)

- Jeff Allen -- drums, percussion

- Mel Collins -- sax

- Danny Cummings -- keyboards

- Martin Drover -- trumpet 

- Andy Duncan -- percussion 

- Jim Prime -- keyboards 

- Lee Kosmin -- backing vocals

- Steve Lange -- backing vocals

- Ronnie Scott -- sax

- Alan Thomson -- bass, guitar

- Geraint Watkins -- accordion 

- Pete Wingfield -- 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 (1986)

- Danny Cummings -- percussion

- Foster Patterson -- keyboards, backing vocals

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


  backing musicians (1987)

- Arran Ahman -- drums

- David Ball -- bass

- Jeff Castle -- keyboards

- Danny Cummings -- percussion

- Foster Patterson -- keyboards

- Colin Tully -- sax


John and Beverley Martyn




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 and 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   rating: **** stars

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.

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

3.) Sugar Lump   (John Martyn) - 3:42  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.

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

5.) Just Now   (John Martyn) - 3:35   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.   


(side 2)

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

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

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

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

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






Genre: folk-rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Sunday's Child

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS 9296

Year: 1975

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut top right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $25.00


Perhaps paying attention to Island's marketing department and his accountant (life's priorities change when you have family obligations), 1975's "Sunday's Child" found John Martyn shifting back towards a more mainstream and commercial sound.  Of course, that wasn't saying a great deal in the wake of the out-and-out experimental previous album "Inside Out."   Self-produced and supposedly recorded over a six day stint, the album featured nine originals and a pair of covers with backing from a tight band including John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards and bassist Danny Thompson.  Surprisingly upbeat for a guy with more than his share of issues, tracks like 'My Baby Girl', 'Lay It On Down' and 'You Can Discover' found Martyn apparently momentarily caught in the joys of marriage and family.  Check out the back cover showing a glowing Martyn with his young daughter Mhairi.  Sadly you just knew this happy time wasn't going to last.  Elsewhere tracks like the atypical out-and-out rocker 'Root Love' and the bues-rock 'Clutches' reflected the darker, troubled Martyn that fans knew and loved. It may not have been the most artistically consistent album Martyn recorded, but song-for-song it's a great way to sample his mid-career work.  

Released in 2006, the reissue included an extensive 12 page booklet and a series of seven bonus tracks.  Five were acoustic numbers culled from a 1975 BBC One episode of The John Peel Sessions:

1.) Satisfied Mind (First Mix)   (John Martyn)

2.) One Day Without You   (John Martyn)

3.) You Can Discover   (John Martyn)

4.) My Baby Girl   (John Martyn)

5.) The Message   (John Martyn)

6.) Spencer The Rover  (traditional)


"Sunday's Child" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) One Day Without You   (John Martyn) - 2:58  rating: **** stars

Martyn's electric lead guitar provided the secret ingredient on the opening rocker 'One Day Without You.'  The song also  provided a great example of Martyn's unique vocal phrasings.  There are lots of live clips found on YouTube and as good as the studio version was, this clip from a 1978 performance at Reading University was even more impressive - Just Martyn and acoustic guitar: John Martyn - One day without you (1978) - YouTube

2.) Lay It All Down  (John Martyn) - 1:50  rating: **** stars

One of his prettiest (and shortest) compositions, 'Lay It All Down' was a soothing ballad.  Martyn's purring, slinky vocals were guaranteed to reduce your blood pressure by 10 points. Danny Thompson on double bass ...  

3.) Root Love  (John Martyn) - 4:33  rating: **** stars

For anyone who pegged Martyn has a traditional folk act, slap the funky 'Root Love' on your turn table, crank up the volume and step back ...  No idea what effects he was using on his electric guitar, but the results will take the acne scars off your face.  Pulled from the Live from the Camden Palace DVD,  YouTube has a blazing live performance of the song at: John Martyn - Root Love - YouTube

4.) My Baby Girl  (John Martyn) -  2:29   rating: *** stars

Upping the jazzy quotient, I'm guessing the soothing 'My Baby Girl' was inspired by young daughter Mhair.  Soon to be ex-wife Beverley was featured on accompanying vocals.

5.) Sunday's Child  (John Martyn) - 3:16   rating: **** stars

The title-track was a low-keyed charmer.  I never would have thought acoustic bass could be as funky ...  Recorded a decade later, this YoutTube clip found Martyn "heaving up" the tune.  Not sure it was an improvement over the original.   Sundays Child - LIVE 85 - John Martyn - YouTube

6.) Spencer the Rover  (traditional - arranged by John Martyn) - 4:10  rating: **** stars

The first of two covers, the traditional English folk song 'Spencer the Rover' was a longstanding mainstay in Martyn's live repertoire.  Perhaps urban myth, but Martyn supposedly learned the song after hearing the late Barry Dransfield perform it at the Glasgow Folk Centre.  Martyn supposedly forced Dransfield to teach him the song.   For someone who isn't a big fan of English folk this is one of those exceptions., I've always found Martyn's warm, silken delivery to be a mesmerizing performance.  Another tune Certainly a coincidence, but one of Martyn's sons was named Spencer.  YouTube has multiple live performances of the song, but this solo 1977 effort is the best: John Martyn - Spencer the Rover - YouTube


(side 2)

1.) Clutches  (John Martyn) - 1:50   rating: **** stars

'Clutches' opened side two sounding unlike anything else on this diverse album.  A blues-rocker that would not have sounded out of place on a Free album, looking at the performance notes you can see that it was recorded with a different line-up from the rest of the LP  - drummer Tony Braunagel and bassist Terry Wilson of Back Street Crawler fame.  Very different and I have to say I quite enjoyed it.  Shame if was so short.

2.) The Message  (John Martyn) - 2:28   rating: **** stars

Shamefully short, 'The Message'  was another beautiful acoustic ballad. Opening up with some pretty 12 string guitar, the song apparently borrowed heavily from the Scottish ballad 'Mairi's Wedding.'  it was a blast to hear Martyn wrap his voice around the Gaelic (?) lyrics.

3.) Satisfied Mind  (Joe 'Red' Hayes and Jack Rhoads - arranged by John Martyn) - 3:30   rating: ** stars

I suspect most Americans will know this song from Porter Wagoner's mid-'50s hit.  Martyn's cover lost some of the country-tinge, giving it more of a bluesy vibe, but it was still a little too country for my ears.

4.) You Can Discover  (John Martyn) - 3:42   rating: **** stars

Backed by Danny Thompson's acoustic bass and some strange synthesizer burps, 'You Can Discover' showcased Martyn's knack for finding subtle grooves and wrapping his oozy voice around them.  I've always suspected this is what Van Morrison wanted to do in the mid-'80s.  You'll have to wait about a minute for Martyn to tune his guitar, but  YouTube has a 1975 solo performance of the song taken from an appearance on The Old Grey Test Whistle.  I'd love to know what he runs the guitar through to get the weird effects at the end of the track.

5.) Call Me Crazy  (John Martyn) - 7:27   rating: **** stars

Martyn's soulful opening growl on 'Call Me Crazy' has always reminded me of Bill Withers.  And just when I was getting ready for the song to end as another sweet ballad, percussionist Keshav Sathe kicked in with tabla while Thompson got the green light to cut lose on acoustic bass.  Four and a half minutes in it sounded like the song was over, but Martyn merely shifted gears into a pretty instrumental that would not have sounded out of place on Mark Knopfler's "Local Hero" soundtrack.  Totally bizarre and fascinating.





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 enjoyable, if abbreviated 'best of' collection, 1977's "So Far So Good" pulled together highlights from 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: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Well Kept Secret

Company: Duke

Catalog: 90021-1

Year: 1982

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo copy; timing strip on front cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 

Price: $12.00


1982's "Well Kept Secret" was John Martyn's second release for Warner Brothers.  The set was remixed for the US market where it was released by Genesis' Atlantic affiliated Duke. Produced by Sandy Roberton, the collection seemed to reflect the intense pressure Martyn was under to modernize and commercialize his sound. Anyone familiar with his mid-'70s catalog was likely to be shocked by some of the material.  Musically it bounced all over the spectrum. Tracks like the opener 'Could've Been Me" and 'You Might Need a Man' reminded me of the Michael McDonald school of blue-eyed soul.  I like Michael McDonald, but it took a while for this version of Martyn to sink in.   'Gun Money' and 'Hiss On The Tape' featured straight ahead rockers; albeit burdened by badly dated '80s production.  In fact, the hyperactive and skitterish 'Hiss On the Tape' has always reminded me of David Bryne and The Talking Heads.   'Love Up' and 'Back With A Vengeance' reminded me of the late Robert Palmer's brand of dance-rock.  It wasn't a bad album, but it wasn't a great Martyn collection.  He just sounded kind of lost and aimless.  Part of the problem may have something to do with the fact Martyn suffered a severe accident during the recording session: he punctured a lung when he was impaled on a fence.  For some of the sessions Martyn was so heavily drugged on pain meds, supposedly he has little or no memory of recording some of the songs.


"Well Kept Secret" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Could’ve Been Me   (John Martyn) - 3:41   rating: **** stars

I remember putting 'Could’ve Been Me' on and wondering if I'd mistakenly grabbed a Michael McDonald album by mistake.  Mind you, that wasn't meant as an insult since I'm a fan of McDonald's adult-contemporary moves.  Like the best of McDonald's catalog, the song found Martyn channeling a pseudo-soul vocal over a smooth, slow-dance ready vibe.  It would have sounded good on top-40 radio and I'm surprised that it wasn't tapped as a single.  Credited to something called The Store For Music, YouTube has a live performance of the song.  No Idea when or where it was filmed and the sound quality is mediocre: John Martyn - Could've Been Me - YouTube

2.) You Might Need A Man   (John Martyn) -  3:06   rating: **** stars

Initially hearing Martyn parading out funky, blue-eyed soul was a little disconcerting.  The Michael McDonald-with-a-head-cold comparison sounded apt once again, though there also seemed to be a little Phil Collins English soul in the mix (after all Martyn was signed to Genesis' Duke imprint).  Up-tempo and very radio friendly ...  I'll grudgingly admit this one has grown on me over the years.

3.) Hung Up   (John Martyn) - 3:58   rating: *** stars

Showcasing Alan Thomson's fretless bass, the ballad 'Hung Up' showcased patented '80s production.  The song wasn't bad, but how you feel about that unique sound is going to determine how you feel about the tune.  Another YouTube live performance clip, but there's no information on when, or where it was recorded: John Martyn Hung Up - YouTube

4.) Gun Money   (John Martyn) - 5:14   rating: ** stars

Martyn going full-tilt rock-out ...  I'll be in the minority here, bit I can't say I was enamored by the "Miami Vice" feel the permeated these grooves.  The song sounded forced and Sandy Roberton's production gave it a strange, distant, echo.  The song was tapped as a UK single and as a 12" US promotional single:

  UK 7"

- 1982's 'Gun Money' (US remix)' b/w 'Hiss On the Tape' (WEA catalog number 259987-7)

  US 12"

- 1982's 'Gun Money' (long version)' b/w 'Gun Money' (short version)  and 'Hiss On the Tape' (Duke catalog number PR 472)

5.) Never Let Me Go   (Joe Scott) - 2:45   rating: ** stars

The album's lone cover, 'Never Let Me Go' sounded like Martyn was trying to polish up his supper club repertoire.  Thomson's fretless bass and Ronnie Scott's' sax gave it a very MOR-jazz vibe.  YouTube has a live performance of the song recorded during Martyn's 1990 Apprentice Tour: John Martyn - Never Let Me Go - YouTube


(side 2)

1.) Love Up   (John Martyn) - 3:21   rating: *** stars

Funk wasn't a new component to Martyn's catalog (remember 'Amsterdam', but 'Love Up' kicked it up a notch - in the process sounding like Martyn was trying to impersonate the late Robert Palmer. It was definitely different, but not in a great way.  The screechy backing vocals didn't help.

2.) Changes Her Mind   (John Martyn) - 4:33  rating: *** stars

'Changes Her Mind' returned to blue-eyed soul.  The song wasn't bad, but Martyn's performance sounded forces and uncomfortable.  Thomson's burping bass also started to irritate me.

3.) Hiss On The Tape   (John Martyn) - 3:55  rating: *** stars

For some reason 'Hiss On The Tape' always makes me think of David Byrne and Talking Heads.  Nah, it's not a new wave tune, but there's something about the song's skitterish feel that reminds me of Byrne and company.  YouTube has a clip of Martyn performing the song on  1982 appearance on The Old Grey Test Whistle television program: John Martyn - Hiss On The Tape (1982) - YouTube   The song was released as a UK single.  





- 1982's 'Hiss On the Tape' b/w 'Livin' Alone' (WEA catalog number K 79336)








4.) Back With A Vengeance   (John Martyn) - 3:06  rating: *** stars

The dance-ready 'Back With A Vengeance ' struck me as another nod to the Robert Palmer school of top-40 radio airplay.

5.) Livin’ Alone   (John Martyn) - 3:28  rating: *** stars

The title refrain saved the formulaic closer from being totally forgettable.  Okay,the was one track where  Martyn's ragged voice also managed to cut through Roberton's heavy handed production.






Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

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: $12.00


Unfortunately, as much as I like John Martyn, having followed him from his folkie days through his misguided Phil Collins infatuation, here it gets hard to say anything nice.  For 1985's self-produced "Sapphire" Martyn seems to have decided to emulate the late Robert Palmer's identity and sound. The comparisons with Palmer weren't meant as a joke.  Martyn even gave Palmer special thanks in the album liner notes.  The two were apparently recording at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas at the same time with Palmer reportedly provided backing vocals on 'Fisherman's Dreams' and a couple of other selections..  Like much of Palmer's material, tunes like the title track, 'You Know', and 'Watching Her Eyes' were rife with waves of anonymous synthesizers, lynn drums, and female backing singers.   Elsewhere, 'Coming In On Time' and 'Rope-Soul'd' sported the type of adult contemporary sound that you'd hear while waiting on a phone help line, or background music piped into a grocery chain.  Even more frustrating, Martyn sounded like he was singing in a drunken slur, or with his cheeks stuffed full of marbles.  It may sound like a strange comparison, but on 'Coming In On Time' and a couple of other selections, Martyn briefly reminded me of Michael McDonald.  Hearing him slur his way through 'Acid Rain' and a questionable cover of the classic 'Over the Rainbow' was puzzling and disappointing.  


"Sapphire" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Sapphire   (John Martyn) - 5:18   rating: **** stars

Martyn getting funky ... Seriously, I never thought I'd use those two words together.  There's something so unexpectedy strange  hearing Martyn accompanied by fretless bass, syntdrums, synthesizers and a slinky melody.  It's like watching an episode of "Miami Vice."  I'll give it an extra star simply for being so strange.  YouTube has a live performances recorded at an appearance at London's Shaw Theatre: John Martyn. - - "Sapphire " ( HQ ) - YouTube  To my ears the live version pushed the song even further into adult contemporary territory.  Blame Dave Lewis' sax solos ...

2.) Over the Rainbow   (Harold Arlen - E.Y. Harburg) - 3:25  rating: * star

I know fans adore this one, but I've always wondered why in the world  Martyn thought this would be a good idea?   It wasn't.  There's almost a Kenny G vibe here.  YouTube has a live performance of the tune recorded during a 1986 concert at London's The Town and Country Club: John Martyn - "Over the Rainbow" (Live from 1986) - YouTube  Why Island tapped the track as a single remains a mystery to me:





- 1986 'Over the Rainbow' b/w 'Roped Soul'd' (Island catalog number IS 209)







3.) You Know   (John Martyn) - 3:14   rating: *** stars

Kicked along by a wave of bubbly synthesizers, the up-tempo 'You Know' has always reminded me of something out of Phil Collins-era Genesis.  Can we all scream '80s production?

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

I remember wondering if Martyn was actually going to make it through 'Watching Her Eyes.'  With his voice reduced to a croak, it wasn't clear he'd be able to take in enough oxygen to survive.   More forgettable '80s synthesizer rock.

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

Adult contemporary ballad with way too much sax.  Robert Palmer is supposedly somewhere in the mix on backing vocals.  Darn if I can pick him out.


(side 2)

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

Co-written with bass player Alan Thomson, 'Acid Rain' was another track so different from Martyn's signature style, you were left scratching your head.  To be honest, if this one had been credited to some other band - ABC, Wang Chung, etc. I probably would have given it a higher rating.  Fair?  Nah, but neither is life.

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

And the surprises keep coming with 'Mad Dog Days' finding Martyn dipping his toe into reggae.  Again, it was strange and the '80s production values haven't aged well, but his dark and depressing thoughts on failed relationships kind of grew on me.  Available on YouTube Martyn performed the tune on 1986's "Empty Ceiling" DVD: John Martyn Mad Dog Days[Empty Ceiling]1986.avi - YouTube

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

Anyone who misses their '80s mix-tapes will want to track down 'Climb the Walls.'  The  funny thing is you could almost dance to this percussive rich number.  

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

Swamped by an array of synthesizers, percussion effects and what sounded like a church organ, the dark ballad 'Coming In On Time' was almost discordant - certainly difficult to sit though.

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

Dark and foreboding, 'Rope-Soul'd' is guaranteed to clear a dance floor ...  The song's stark, vaporous, quasi-jazzy feel has always reminded me of some of Van Morrison's mid-'80s work.





Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Piece By Piece

Company: Island

Catalog: 90571-1

Year: 1986

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear; cutout notch along edge

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $15.00



Self-produced, 1986's "Piece By Piece" found John Martyn embracing and reinforcing his sophisticated jazz-pop moves.  (Note his hair was under control and Island shelled out some cash for a Miami Vice styled suit and open collar.)  Full of '80s production moves, these nine songs were heavily cloaked in synthesizers and other era-production touches.  Martyn was credited with guitar synthesizers,  Foster Paterson flood the tracks with synthesizer washes and Danny Cumming added extensive percussion and synthesizer drums lines.  In all fairness you couldn't blame Martyn for wanting to sound relevant and following popular tastes. At the same time it was disappointing to hear him moving from innovator to follower. The jittery opener 'Nightline' and 'Serendipity' were two performances where Martyn actually got it right.  To my ears the performances aptly mixed more experimental moves with the sounds competitors like David Byrne and Peter Gabriel were then pursuing. The sweet, but forgettable ballads 'Lonely Love' and 'Angeline' were clearly an attempt to capture radio play.  The ominous 'John Wayne' was easily the album's most eclectic offering.  A staple in his live show, I still have no idea what it's about.  Elsewhere the album frequently fell into "also-ran" territory reminding me a bit of a mid-'80s Phil Collins solo album.  Most of the album was like a fast food lunch - you consumed it and thirty minutes later you had to think to remember what you'd ordered.


Not the best of Martyn's '80s offerings, nor the worst.


One of the first commercially available CDs, the original CD version included for "bonus" tracks:
1.) Tight Connection to My Heart   (Bob Dylan) - 3:50

2.) Solid Air   (John Martyn) - 5:48

3.) One World   (John Martyn) - 4:08

4.) May You Never   (John Martyn) - 3:41


"Piece By Piece" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Nightline   (John Martyn) - 5:09   rating: **** stars

'Nightline' found Martyn diving into an unexpected experimental niche - experimental in the way David Byrne, Robert Fripp, Andy Summers, or Peter Gabriel were.  In other words, there was still a recognizable melody and taunt, danceable beat with plenty of '80s production effects (syndrums, waves of synthesizers). The '80s production effects haven't aged well.   Imagine Michael McDonald doing a Peter Gabriel cover ...  This one grew on me.

2.) Lonely Love   (John Martyn) - 3:17   rating: *** stars

Colin Tully's opening sax instantly pushed 'Lonely Love' into commercial ballad territory and while the track screamed for radio airplay, it was pretty soulless.  You just got the feeling the song had been crafted to please Island's marketing arm and give Martyn some airplay.  This could have been a Rick Astley track for all it mattered.  The song was tapped as a US single:

- 1986's 'Lonely Love' b/w 'Nightline' (Island catalog number 7-99524)

3.) Angeline   (John Martyn) - 3:21    rating: *** stars 

Another pretty ballad, I'm guessing 'Angeline'  was inspired by Martyn's new wife Annie Furlong (another relationship that would break down within a couple of years).  The performance was interesting for showcasing Martyn's ragged voice and the oriental flavorings.  Island tapped the song as the LP's second single.  It was also released as one of the first CD singles.












- 1986's 'Angeline' b/w 'Tight Connection To My Heart' (Island catalog number IS 265)

4.) One Step Too Far   (John Martyn) - 3:21    rating: *** stars 

Once you stumbled through the stabbing keyboards the ballad 'One Step Too Far' seemed to be pushing Martyn as a "love man" singer.  Cool as ice ...   Imagine him as Surrey's version of Marvin Gaye.  Come to think of it, there's kind of a "Sexual Healing" vibe on this one.  LOL   Okay, the synthesizer washes were irritating, but it was still a nice slow-dance performance.

5.) Piece By Piece   (Foster Peterson) - 3:56    rating: *** stars

Penned by keyboard player Forster Peterson, the title track was a smooth, supper-club ballad.  Built on a nifty little riff, it sounded like something Sade or Phil Collins could have ridden to the top of the charts,


(side 2)

1.) Serendipity   (John Martyn) - 4:08   rating: **** stars

Showcasing Danny Commings percussion and Foster Paterson's jittery synthesizers, 'Serendipity' returned to a more experimental sound.  To me it was reminiscent of early Peter Gabriel.  That's a good thing.

2.) Who Believes In Angels   (John Martyn) - 4:36    rating: *** stars

I'll readily admit that 'Who Believes In Angels' was one of Martyn's prettiest songs, but to this day he sounds uncomfortable singing in the high register.

3.) Love Of Mine   (John Martyn) - 4:47    rating: *** stars

Paterson's burping synthesizers and Tully's sax bleeps opened the door to another slinky ballad that screamed '80s production.  Anyone else and this might have been an album highlights.  For Martyn it was just kind of bland, though you have to admit the man did heartbreak better than anyone. YouTube has a performance of the song taken from an appearance on the German TV "Ohne Filtre" program.   John Martyn Love of Mine {Empty Ceiling1986 - YouTube

4.) John Wayne   (John Martyn) - 6:55

The album's oddest composition, I've listened to the lyrics dozens of times and still don't have a clue what the song is about - "I am John Wayne; they tell me I am the John Wayne ...".  With Colin Tully's sac adding some Middle Eastern touches, it's dark, ominous and a good "party clearer", though I have no idea what Martyn's was all wound up over.  Filmed at London's Shaw Theatre as part of his 1990 The Apprentice Tour, YouTube has a performance of the song with David Gilmour guesting:  John Martyn.and David Gilmour- - " John Wayne " ( HQ ) - YouTube




In a curious marketing move Island tapped the song as a Canadian promotional 12" single:


-1986's 'John Wayne' b/w 'John Wayne' (Island catalog number IS 867)





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 London's Forum, it was kind of Interesting 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 epitomizes 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  rating: *** stars

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:  

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:  rating: *** stars

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

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.  

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

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.    

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

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:  


(side 2)

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

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.  

2.) John Wayne   (John Martyn) - 7:38  rating: *** stars

'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:   

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

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):  

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

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