Sapphire - Island 90248-1

21 Apr 1985
Tampa Bay Times
Peter Smith
John Martyn: Sapphire
(Island, $8.98)

We say: Just fine

artist picture
I asked four or five of my more musically knowledgeable friends if they had ever heard John Martyn sing. None of them had, but they all had heard of him. Martyn has been a well-kept secret long enough. On his 12th album this British singer creates a folk-jazz amalgam that is instantly accessible and compelling.

Martyn's voice is warm and friendly, sounding like… Oh, let's see. Joe Cocker comes to mind, but Martyn isn't quite so grating. Richard Thompson's influence is an audible part of his sound, but I am reminded the most of Michael McDonald, in his gruff, low-register attack and style of hanging onto the notes.

The title cut immediately pulls you under Martyn's spell; the terse and thoughtful instrumental backing acts as a perfect counterpoint to his rough, longing voice. Mad Dog Days and Climb The Walls are synth-pop oriented, and the dryness of the synthesizers and Linn drums contrasts interestingly with his voice; the humanity and sensibility of his tone are brought out by the mechanical sounds behind him. Martyn also takes on Over The Rainbow and acquits himself pretty well, with an airy, open arrangement reminiscent of Every Breath You Take.1 He blows a lyric in the bridge, though.

John Martyn has made another in a series or intelligent and listenable albums, an excellent introduction to a long-overlooked body of work.

— Peter Smith

1 Big hit for The Police in 1983.
This American review was published in The Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) on Sunday 21 April 1985.

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