JOHN MARTYN'S Grace & Danger (Island L37469) is a polished, atmospheric album that steps lightly between rock, jazz and Caribbean rhythms.
John Martyn: an atmospheric album
Martyn's slurred, instrumental vocals and progressive guitar are matched with the keyboard and synthesiser work of Tommy Eyre and Dave Lawson, John Giblin's fluent, lingering electric bass and Phil Collins' cymbal-accented percussion.
Giblin adds meat to the slow-rocking ballad Some People Are Crazy with bass harmonics blending with synthesiser as a syncopation device; Grace & Danger, it has been suggested, is about Grace Jones1 - the disco-blues treatment, with multiple guitars against a steady but restrained rhythm, sounds like a Martyn compromise; Lookin' On swings behind chopping acoustic guitar, strained scatting vocals, rippling bass and electric piano; Johnny Too Bad is reggae, with menacingly distorted electric guitar.
Sweet Little Mystery rocks gently against string synthesiser and electric piano; Hurt In Your Heart is another ballad, with Martyn's familiar sustained, echoing guitar; Baby Please Come Home is a lilting ballad; Save Some (For Me) has a rippling, percussive guitar to a reggae rhythm; and Our Love lightly rocks with vocal chorus, unison bass/ guitar and synthesised strings.
Producer Martin Levan elevates the vocals and relegates Martyn's guitar to one of the band, with occasional solos and a consistent rhythm role. It is a trend that began on the One World album and should go no further, or a unique talent could be stifled.
However, this is a tasteful production that will increase John Martyn's following.
1 A label mate at best..
This Australian review was printed in Melbourne in The Age of Thursday 18 December 1980.