No Little Boy – Mesa R2 79057

10 Nov 1993
The Rocket
Chris Nickson
No Little Boy (CD)

IT TAKES GUTS FOR AN ARTIST TO REINTERPRET his old material. It's changed, but he's changed more. Can it still sound relevant?

John Martyn isn't exactly a household name. A Brit, he released his first album 25 years ago. Initially a folkie, he's drifted slowly towards jazz. His admirers range from Richard Thompson to Steve Winwood to Martin Carthy. His songs have been recorded by Eric Clapton, America, and Ian Matthews. Not a bad fan club.

I loved those old records, but would this work? It does. What he's created is adult contemporary music for an ideal world. None of the Lukewarm 107 crap. This is mature, honest emotion, the distilled pain and joys of 20 years. Time's mellowed Martyn's voice, making him sound more than ever like a tenor sax, a warm, liquid instrument that slurs and dips around the words.

The new arrangements treat the songs lovingly, but not as easily breakable antiques. The players are all inventive and sympathetic. Even the guest stars (David Gilmour, Levon Helm and that ubiquitous elf Phil Collins) seem happy to work for the song, not to shine their own lights.

And yes, it still sounds fiercely relevant.


This review was published in The Rocket #171 of 10 November 1993, on page 39 and 40. The original item had The Lemonheads on the cover.
The Rocket was a Seattle based magazine that lived from 1979 to 2000. Charles Cross was helpful in tracking down this material.

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