After his brilliant, but all too short, appearance at Fife Aid,1 there's no doubt that John Martyn's series of solo concerts will be obligatory for Festival-going music lovers. Armed with only a guitar, Martyn can turn a set from beautifully poignant love songs to intense exorcisms and back again, drifting off into realms of scat-singing until his voice becomes as much an instrument as the guitar he plays so adeptly.
It must be frustrating for the 42 year-old Glaswegian that he is still thought of by many people as a 'folkie', considering that even on his second album, The Tumbler, he was pushing forward the boundaries of what was acceptable in the folk world by playing with jazz saxophonist Harold McNair, on 1972's [sic] Solid Air made extensive use of electric guitar and in 1976 even worked with the legendary reggae producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry on a soundtrack, an experience which influenced the rhythms of his following LP One World.
The formation of a gigging electric band at the start of the Eighties brought Martyn closer into the rock mainstream, despite occasional complaints from the music press that live shows were laid-back enough to be an efficient insomnia cure. Such grumblings didn't bother Phil Collins, who produced the Glorious Fool LP (the title track, a satirical attack on Ronald Reagan, was an early stab at political statement), or Eric Clapton, who included the Martyn standard May You Never on Slowhand. His band's sets show up the most keenly all the diverse influences Martyn has picked up and rearranged, and the move to the electric guitar did nothing but enhance his reputation as a creative and original musician.
His solo concerts, running from 15-20 August are part of Dance Factory's 'Rock 'n' The Fringe' package, and take place at the Heriot Watt Theatre, Grindlay Street (phone 229 3574 for tickets, which are limited to 200 a night). Doors open at 11pm. (Mab)
1 Sunday 24 July 1988, Fife, St. Andrews (Craigtoun country park). This was the Eco Rock festival and a few tracks have been released on video.
This announcement appeared in The List of 12 August 1988 (issue 73, page 45).