JOHN MARTYN: 'Solid Air' (Island). How do you begin to describe a guitarist as sensitive and as accomplished as John Martyn? Perhaps it's best to say that every album he makes expands one's appreciation of his ability and increases one's impatience at having to wait for his future developments. Most of those guitarists who fall under the 'singer/songwriter' brand-name, if they even recognise their instrument as anything other than a backcloth for lyrics, use the guitar to emphasise melody and speed. Martyn is outstanding in recognising the harmony pertaining to the instrument, the shades of tone and volume that can be moulded around the main melodic and rhythmic structure, although if the recording sessions followed the same pattern as those for his previous LP Bless The Weather there was very little control exercised over how the musicians backing him played. All the more incredible then that Solid Air has turned out so well. The list of accompanying musicians and instruments is long and impressive, and correspondingly there is a concentration upon timbre - building up into some very extraordinary landscapes. Danny Thompson, with his jazz experience, is one of Martyn's most competent accompanists. Dave Mattacks supports with the feeling and precision that have come to be expected of him, and Tony Coe does brief but complementary things with the sax. Martyn's own performances, and also his writing, allows the strong rhythms that have characterised past recordings to be superseded to some extent, or at least overshadowed, by experimentation with tone. He has become far more confident about giving his voice free rein, and the result is greatly to his advantage. Finally, a word on behalf of the many hundreds (perhaps millions - who knows?) who must currently be waiting with bated breath for John Martyn to record his awesome experiments with re-verb unit etc. Hurry up and do it.1 - A.M.
1 John quickly responded with delivering Inside Out, only seven months later.
Scan provided by John Neil Munro