This deluxe reissue was already in the pipeline as part of Island's 50th anniversary celebrations before Martyn's sad death earlier this year, and would still be a must-have without its subsequent –and unwanted– poignancy. Read almost any review of last year's Ain't No Saint box set, or the more recent May You Never compilation, and they'll point you towards Solid Air.
First released in 1973, it was a transitional album for Martyn, his boldest attempt yet to push the folk envelope and incorporate elements of blues, jazz and funk. They're hybrid sounds which may have initially looked dubious on paper, but the artist's command of his craft and spirit of experimentation (both musical and sonic) resulted in a jaw-dropping collection as pioneering as anything during a decade of creative upheaval and sea changes.
The alternate takes and live versions of the second disc offer insights into Martyn's thought processes, acting like the opening chapter of a biography of the album. Think not of the upgraded Solid Air as an epitaph for a departed legend, and cherish it as a celebration of an extraordinary man at his dizzying peak.
This review was published in Record Collector of August 2009. The issue had The Beach Boys on the cover.