Like several Island acts of the early 70s (Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, etc), Martyn was given a fairly loose roaming brief. Big sales were a mere secondary consideration to the pursuit of a muse, allowing the artist to follow flights of fancy experimentation. For a major label signing to be afforded such a luxury seems unthinkable today, but Martyn used his freedom to seek out his voice.
This double CD finds Martyn ever pushing the parameters of the accepted norms of folk singer-songwriting, not least on the extended guitar intro to Bless The Weather, presented here from a 1971 show and preceded by a knockabout rendition of Singin' In The Rain. The audience contributions are telling, and you get the sense that they're willing Martyn on to take them down hitherto uncharted paths.
The second disc, from 1981, revisits moments from his starkly autobiographical Grace & Danger album, the cold and echo-laden production further cementing the songs' often harrowing chronicling of a marriage on the verge of collapse. Chilling stuff for a 'pop' radio station to be broadcasting, but well worth having in your collection for keeps.
This review was published in Record Collector of July 2007. The issue had the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper on the cover ('It was forty years ago today')