Remembering John Martyn - Secret SECDD054

1 Sep 2012
Record Collector #405
Oregano Rathbone

John Martyn - Remembering John Martyn

A game of two halves

In which a miscellany of John Martyn's live performances and stray studio sessions are assembled into a coherent whole – even if it takes two handily compartmentalised CDs to do so. Disc One features late 80s/early 90s full-band outings, some bolstered by illustrious guests (Big Muff, Lookin' On and Couldn't Love You More with David Gilmour; Look At That Girl with Andy Sheppard; Ways To Cry with Phil Collins). Some Martynophiles may struggle here with the contrast between the man's typically unfiltered, impulsive absorption in the music and the respectful smoothness of his ensemble players. When kitted out in pastel-hued wine bar togs, even songs as emotionally raw as Head And Heart and Couldn't Love You More could almost be filed next to Sade in the "80s lifestyle accessory" section.

No such stipulation applies with the roughneck duo and trio live performances which predominate on Disc Two. The sound quality is variable, but cannot dim the stellar sparks produced when Martyn is accompanied by his drinking buddy and literal sparring partner, bassist Danny Thompson. The pummelling, zoned-out Echoplex waves of I'd Rather Be The Devil and Outside In are where folk-blues and krautrock meet, while Spencer The Rover is so unutterably gorgeous it could levitate the Pentagon.

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Secret | SECDD 054 (2-CD)

Reviewed by Oregano Rathbone

sitenote: Rathbone should have put some more research into this exploit of John's passing.
The issue of Record Collector had Jimi Hendrix (1967) on the cover.