Duke DU 19345
After 11 albums, renegade English folksinger John Martyn remains virtually unknown in the U.S. But all that may change with GLORIOUS FOOL, thanks to the patronage of Genesis drummer Phil Collins, who produced the album for Genesis' new Duke label.
Actually, though he started as a Bob Dylan-influenced troubadour, Martyn is hardly a folksinger anymore. Early on he began adding electronic effects to his acoustic guitar playing and jazz rhythms to his material, and his voice took on the incantatory mystery of some of Van Morrison's more exotic songs. Much of Martyn's best work from this period -including Head And Heart and May You Never, covered by America and Eric Clapton, respectively- is available on an Island compilation called SO FAR SO GOOD.
With GLORIOUS FOOL Martyn has moved on again, trading in his acoustic guitar for an electric and adding Alan Thomson on fretless bass, former Jeff Beck sideman Max Middleton on keyboards and Collins on drums. The resulting mixture is a bold one: Thomson's playing recalls Weather Report's Jaco Pastorius, and Collins maintains the booming drum sound of his own FACE VALUE and Genesis's ABACAB.
The highlight include gentle love songs like Hold On To My Heart and Couldn't Love You More (redone from a previous album, this time with Clapton on guest guitar), and fierce rockers like Never Say Never, on which Martyn wails away on guitar like a latter-day Jimi Hendrix. The rapid Didn't Do That, dominated by percussion and jazzy trumpet, gives way to a droning chant, Please Fall In Love With Me, and then to the static Don't You Go. On most of these songs Collins sings falsetto backup vocals to Martyn's deep, growling leads.
At 55 minutes the album is a little too long; it could stand some judicious editing. But Martyn hasn't compromised his art in order to reach a new audience; if anything he's grown more idiosyncratic. Now if only Genesis would bring him along on their summer tour.
This review was published in the Daily Record of Sunday, 13 June 1982. The paper is based in Morristown, New Jersey.