Album Review

Martyn, John – “Solid Air” – [Island Records Ltd.]

ArtCrimes   2/25/2009   B Library, CD

Starting out as an acoustic folkie troubador in Glasgow, John Martyn had recorded a few albums (with and without his wife of the time, Beverly) before he began using the distinctive characteristics that defined the rest of his career: slurred, almost growled vocalizing, and echoing guitar work. “Solid Air,” a 1973 release for island in the UK, is where these techniques first flowered, especially with his thundering remake of Skip James’ “Rather be the Devil” and the jazz-inflected title track, a tribute to his good friend Nick Drake. Van Morrison and Tim Buckley are probably the closest comparisons with Martyn during this period, with their semi-jazz scatting and use of vibes, horns, and acoustic instruments rather than more rock-ish support. Pentangle’s Danny Thompson is featured on double bass for most tracks, and the tidy production by John Wood lets you hear every note. Martyn wrote a number of songs that were successful for other artists in more commercial arrangements, and Martyn himself had some ill-advised flirtations with the middle-of-the-road later in a relatively long career, but this is the one everyone turned to after his recent passing at age 60, on January 29, 2009. (crimes)

you heard it 11 times on kfjc! most recently:
  • 5169 days ago, John Goldfarb played I'd Rather Be The Devil
  • 5170 days ago, Natasha played I'd Rather Be The Devil
  • 5176 days ago, Pax Humana played The Easy Blues (Jelly Roll Blues / Gentle Blues)
  • 5200 days ago, Art Crimes played Don't Want to Know
  • 5205 days ago, Dugu-dugu Dah played The Easy Blues (Jelly Roll Blues / Gentle Blues)
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