JOHN & BEVERLEY MARTYN: THE ROAD TO RUIN (ISLAND ILPS 9133)
PRODUCER JOE Boyd and pianist/ arranger Paul Harris, the two Americans who conspired with John and Beverley Martyn to bring us the beautiful "Storm-bringer" album earlier in the year, have done it again with another piece of acoustic magic. For The Road To Ruin is almost as good, and the addition of brass is highly successful. Beverley opens with a simple song she composed three years ago,1 backed by Warleigh's sax and Harris's ever tasteful piano. Then John takes the initiative on Parcels before the beautifully arranged Auntie Aviator which stands out as being startlingly good in the same way that Southern Man does from the Neil Young album. The entire mood changes for New Day, a Latin cha-cha featuring Lyn Dobson on flute, Danny Thompson (double bass) and Rocky Dzidzornu, Paul Harris and his colleague Wells Kelly (drums and bass) contribute some extremely sympathetic accompaniment, particularly on Give Us A Ring, the only number not written by John and Bev.2 Then Dudu Pukwana takes over on sax for Sorry To Be So Long, a rock and roller with a Leon Russell-type piano intro. Tree Green is simply John and his guitar just as we know him; this is beautiful, simple and completely typical of John Martyn. Say What You Can, wrongly titled on the sleeve it seems,3 features Dave Pegg (bass) with Dobson and Pukwana providing a heavy brass encouragement for Beverley's voice to penetrate. The brass is maintained for the final title track, which opens gently with John and guitar, then breaks completely for a heavy section from Alan Spenner (bass), and Dudu Pukwana, changing the mood and direction of the song as they play out the long instrumental finale with Kelly and Harris in support.
A far more ambitious work from John and Beverley but one which matches Stormbringer for quality, retains the strong identity of the Martyns and yet digresses sufficiently to recommend it strongly. - J.G.
1 Primrose Hill
2 Paul Wheeler wrote this song for Nick Drake
3 The cover mentions Let It Happen
This review was published in Sounds magazine of 12 December 1970. Adjoining albums were Mac Davis' Song Painter, McGuiness Flint's eponymous release and John Lennon's first solo album. The issue also contained an interview, John Martyn's City Struggle. Photo provided by John Neil Munro