Glorious Fool - by John Martyn
Distributed by WEA, 99178
Unheralded, hidden, unique and startlingly good - John Martyn in capsule. The title of Martyn's 1980 album (Grace & Danger) pretty well sums up his approach. He's a Scottish folksinger and guitarist who has evolved his craft into a blues-voice Jekyll-and-Hyde, jazz-rock-folk melting pot.
His recent departure from a standard folk format may upset some long-time fans, but the progress he has made in lands of his own discovery is worthy.
Glorious Fool (with Phil Collins of solo and Genesis fame producing in place of Grace & Danger's Martin Levan) is richly aural. At times it is frightening in its images, but never despairing. Martyn's voice, capable of being both enticing and threatening, is never without a gruff, near-slurring character.
And the music -paced by Martyn's delicate guitar, Collins identifiable (and, in this context, thankfully understated) percussion work and Max Middleton's keyboards- is always sensuous.
The cast, which has the potential to be oppressive, is most decidedly in control: from Collins, through former Jeff Beck cohort Middleton, to Eric Clapton. Clapton's fluid guitar lines link perfectly with Martyn's lyrical six-string wanderings on Couldn't Love You More.
Glorious Fool should bridge the gap for those mystified by the slightly distant Grace & Danger, but enthralled by earlier work like One World and So Far So Good.
This review preceded that of Neil Young's Reactor on page 25 of Alberta-based Red Deer Advocate, issue Saturday 28 November 1981. Not all critics have failing ears... Later on the writer became managing editor of the paper.