John Martyn - The Battle Of Medway
Landmark live recording as Martyn abandons folk
It's July, 1973. John Martyn, one of the young princes of the flourishing British folk scene, is hurtling in a new direction. Strongly influenced by The Band's Music From Big Pink, he's also into Coltrane, John McLaughlin and Miles Davis, exploring electric guitar, jazz and experimental rock and using the Echoplex to expand his sound with guitar effects.
Long signed to Island and its heavyweight career path (Solid Air has just come out and Inside Out is on the way), Martyn plays one last folk club gig at Medway Folk Centre. This is that gig. The recording quality is scrappy, intermittently interrupted by members of the audience sneezing and telling the noisy ones at the bar to "shhhhh", but from the dark blues Mr Jelly Roll Baker to his calling card May You Never, to a knockabout Singing In The Rain and the Echoplex–fuelled guitar deluge of I'd Rather Be The Devil, it's a fascinating insight into an innovative artist at the crossroads of his career.
It's recorded on a primitive reel-to-reel tape, but what you lose in technical imperfections is more than compensated by a good-humoured, surprisingly talkative Martyn, revealing introductions and the sheer intensity of his playing. Great Colin Harper sleevenotes too.
Hux | 090
Reviewed by Colin Irwin
sitenote: The issue of Record Collector had 'Rare Dylan' on the cover.