Piece by Piece (ISL-1083)
A few eyebrows went up last year when John Martyn, a veteran British guitarist of considerable influence, showed signs of indulging in the rock-and-roll spirit with more glee than he'd been known for. With Piece by Piece, however, Martyn has pulled back from the relative aggressiveness he displayed on Sapphire.
This one is steeped more heavily in the rich introspective moods Martyn can create with his melodious guitar style and the smokey, hushed voice that he uses as much as an instrument as he does as a vehicle for his lyrics.
The music here ranges from subtly stated to understated. The glaring exception is John Wayne, which closes the album. This is the odd-ball track and also the most intriguing, with its contrasting dark emotions and raucous interplay of Eastern melody and exotic percussion.
In general, though, Piece By Piece is a quiet, pensive album. At times this light mood borders on a pop slickness that is uncharacteristic, if not unbecoming of Martyn. More often there is an innovative edge although not to the point of making this Martyn's most enterprising album by any means.
This review was published in The Ottawa Citizen of Thursday, 27 March 1986, in the Rock Section written by Evelyn Erskine.