The April Consumer Guide (gotta change that name since that tone deaf 'critic' at the other paper ripped it off after I had ripped it off fair and square from Robert Christgau years ago. When columnists are having trouble coming up with something they really have no shame or scruples. I know this other columnist who changed his name just to get a column and this other guy who...) WHOA Nellie! Where were we? Ahh, the April Consumer Guide finds your critic up to here with noisy new wave assaults and thoughtfully re-evaluating Barry Manilow. Well, maybe not going that far, but when my favorite tune of the month is done by such middle-aged crooners as James Taylor and J.D. Souther, something is in the air. Maybe nitrous oxide. Let's commence.
• Grace & Danger - John Martyn (Antilles) - One of pop's true originals is the British-bred Martyn, who began his career as something of a ballad-oriented folkie, but by incorporating a spatial jazz into his free-form compositions, settled on a style totally unique to these ears. Martyn has a soft, soaring voice that he balances like a juggler atop these airy melodies, which feature slight traces of reggae (and one out-and-out reggae in his revamped version of the Slickers' Johnny Too Bad) and other Caribbean influences. This is just the thing for those winding down evenings laced with brandy and warm thoughts. (A)
• Face Value - Phil Collins (Atlantic) - The erstwhile Genesis/ Brand X drummer-vocalist turns in his first solo effort, and it's surprisingly poppy and tuneful considering the leadenness of his band's output. That's apparent most in his reworking of Behind The Lines from the last Genesis LP, done here in a breezy jazz arrangement. A brace of R&B songs, I Missed Again and Thunder And Lightning, are done up brown with some help from the Earth Wind and Fire horn section, and his number one English single of In The Air Tonight sounds positively striking coming out of the car radio, especially when the drums kick in. (B)
A nice combination side by side in this column.
This American review was published in The Journal Herald (Dayton, Ohio), Saturday 11 April 1981.