John and Beverley Martyn
Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970)
- Beverley Martyn (aka Beverley Kutner) -- vocals
- John Martyn (aka Iain David McGeachy) RIP 2009-- vocals,
guitar, harp, keyboards
supporting musicians (1970)
- Lyn Dobson - flute, saxophone
- Rocky Dzidzornu - congas
- Paul Harris - keyboards
- Wells Kelly - drums, bass
- Mike Kowalski - drums
- Dave Pegg - bass
- Dudu Pukwana - saxophone
- Alan Spenner - bass
- Danny Thompson - double bass
- Ray Warleigh - saxophone
- The Levee Breakers (Beverley Kutner)
- John Martyn (solo efforts)
- Beverley Martyn (solo efforts)
Rating: 4 stars ****
Title: The Road To Ruin
Company: Warner Brothers
Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland and
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: minor cover wear
Catalog ID: --
As is so often the case, I was late to the party ... Yes, I'd discovered the eclectic John Martyn while I was in college and over the years I've purchased a bunch of his solo work. I've never been a hardcore fan, but there was always enough interesting material to make the effort worthwhile. Somewhere along the line I stumbled across an album Martyn had recorded with then wife Beverley. I just never got around to listening to it. I guess I just assumed it would be maudlin early-'70s traditional folk covers. Yeah, was I ever wrong.
Once again produced by Joe Boyd, 1970's "The Road To Ruin" was a stunning second chapter for the Martyns. Unlike their previous "Stormbringer!" album which had been recorded in Woodstock, New York, the new album found the pair back on home turf, recording at Chelsea's Sound Techniques Studios. Boyd apparently envisioned the album as a Beverley solo effort, but it ended up being another full-out collaboration. There was also some contention between Boyd and John Martyn. Martyn was interested in a "live" sound, whereas Boyd wanted to pursue a smoother, polished mix. To Martyn's subsequent dismay, Boyd carried the day. With the pair writing separately and together, tracks like the opener 'Primrose Hill' and 'Say What You Can' quickly trashed any expectations that this was going to be a collection of traditional English folk tunes. Sure 'Parcels' and 'True Green' found John contributing a pair of pretty acoustic ballads, but those were the exceptions. Instead, with help from producer Boyd, the Martyns seemed determined to stretch their musical boundaries. One of three collaborations, 'Auntie Aviator' was the album's most interesting tune, introducing a lysergic edge into one of Beverley's most impressive vocals. Always loved the "zoom, zoom, zoom" refrain. The title track started out as a pretty John ballad, but quickly morphed into a Traffic-styled slice of jazz-rock. John's performance were uniformly good, especially since you got to hear his natural, lower timbre voice. Beverley was even more impressive. Her crystal clear voice and understated power provided highlight after highlight across these nine tunes.
Interestingly, Island Records played a big role in the end of the Martyns' musical collaboration (and as a side effect, what would be the end of their personal relationship). Convinced that John was more viable as a solo act the label pushed him to resume a solo career, while abandoning Beverley.
For anyone interested, Beverley has a small FaceBook presence at: (18) Beverley Martyn | Facebook
To Ruin" track listing:
1.) Primrose Hill (Beverley Martyn) - 2:53 rating: ***** stars
Expecting to hear a traditional English folk tune I was totally surprised by the rocking 'Primrose Hill.' Built on a pseudo bossa-nova rhythm the song showcased Beverley's crystalline voice and Ray Warleigh's sexy sax fills. With a lyric seemingly celebrating the happiness of domestic life, Beverley's sultry vocals have always reminded me a bit of Astrud Gilberto. The track also reminded me of how unfair life can be. As demonstrated by the song, Beverley Martyn was an immensely talented writer and singer. You can easily argue that without her support, then-husband John would not have been able to enjoy a lengthy and acclaimed solo career. In one of the stranger sampling moves I've heard, Fatboy Slim liberally appropriated the opening riff and vocals for 'North West Three.' Warner Brothers actually released the song as a 45 in the States:
- 1970's 'Primrose Hill' b/w Tree Green' (Warner Brothers catalog number 7482)
2.) Parcels (John Martyn) - 3:23 rating: **** stars
The pastoral acoustic ballad 'Parcels' made up for the fact John was all but invisible on the opener. Nice example of what a great voice Martyn had (before he opted for a drunken slur approach to singing).
3.) Auntie Aviator (John Martyn - Beverley Martyn) - 6:49 rating: ***** stars
The first of three Martyn collaborations, this was also one of Beverley's all-time standout performances, 'Auntie Aviator' was a strange number. I've listened to it dozens of times and still don't have a clue as to what the plotline is. Again, not your typical English folk song, instead you got an eclectic, haunting, psych-tinged rock ballad that could have been on some forgotten West Coast psych band release, or even an early Steve Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac performance. Beautiful Paul Harris keyboards. Anyone know what the weird theremin-like guitar sound effect is towards the end of the song?
4.) New Day (John Martyn) - 3:56 rating: **** stars
'New Day' started out sounding like a standard folk number, but Lyn Dobson's flute added a light, Brazilian feel to the song. The performance got even better when Beverley's harmony vocals showed up in the mix. Long time future collaborator Danny Thompson provides double bass. Beautiful.
Penned by John Martyn buddy/singer Paul Wheeler, 'Give Us a Ring' was the album's lone outside number. Wheeler intended the tune to be his "signature song"; the haunting ballad supposedly written for friend Nick Drake. Built on nice Paul Harris piano work, the arrangement showcased the Martyns gorgeous harmonies and may have been the album's prettiest performance. Always loved the exchoplex effect. By the way it wasn't about a ring as in a finger, rather was about expecting a phone call. Beverley recorded the song as part of her 2014 career overview album "The Phoenix and the Turtle." Backed by guitarist Mark Pavey and a tight band, YouTube has a live performance of the song. Yes, time had taken its toll, but Beverley's performance was still impressive. Give Us A Ring by Beverley Martyn - YouTube
2.) Sorry To Be So Long (John Martyn - Beverley Martyn) - 4:35 rating: *** stars
Folk? Seriously? None of that here. Kicked along by Harris' barrelhouse piano 'Sorry To Be So Long' found Beverley dipping her toes into old-timey rock. A fun tune, it just didn't measure up to the other treasures on the album.
3.) Tree Green (John Martyn) - 3:12 rating: **** stars
The uplifting, acoustic ballad 'Tree Green' was more along the lines of what I expected this album to sound like. Once again, it was nice to hear John Martyn singing in his lower, natural range.
4.) Say What You Can (John Martyn - Beverley Martyn) - 3:05 rating: **** stars
Backed by a full band, 'Say What You Can' was the album's most commercial offering. Geez, there were even horns on this one. I can't say enough about what a great voice Beverley had.
5.) Road To Ruin (John Martyn) - 6:38 rating: *** stars
The title track has always struck me as a precursor to John's solo career. Unlike his other performances on the album, this time out he introduced an earlier variant of his slurred drawl. Opening up as a pretty ballad, about two minutes in Martyn introduced sax player Dudu Pukwana into the mix and the tune went off in a Traffic-styled jazz-rock fusion direction. Produced Boyd actually had Pukwana record a second solo over his initial work. While it wasn't my favorite performance, I have to say it was surprisingly funky.
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