§ IT'S THE IRONY OF FATE that John Martyn, who played at the Barowiak on Tuesday, would get a head start to a proper breakthrough with the song Over The Rainbow from the latest LP Sapphire. Ironically because it is among the very few songs he has recorded that he has not written himself. Besides, the song is so far from what he does otherwise.
In the original, Over The Rainbow is sung by Judy Garland in the movie Wizard of Oz, and the song is delightfully upbeat. In Martyn's version instead, it becomes ironic and filled with sadness over a life that rarely turns out as one wishes. Martyn performed it as an encore with Singin' In The Rain. Life goes on.
§ JOHN MARTYN has always thought it important to develop himself as a musician. From the first LP London Conversation, which came out in 1968 [sic], to the latest one goes a long and winding road with many developments. He has had many different constellations on stage, and often performed without the help of other musicians.
At Barowiak, Martyn himself was responsible for guitar and singing. Foster Paterson played synthesizers and rhythm machine. The sound was big and powerful from just these two people. Electronics has made such tremendous progress in recent years that it is perfectly possible to perform music with an ever smaller number of people.
Possible is one thing - desirable a completely different one. I am by no means opposed to synths or the like, however, I think Martyn would have won a great deal by having a band behind him.
§ HIS SONGS contain so much drama that the static churn, which often originates from rhythm machines, provides much of the impression. Sometimes the contrast between his song and the music acts as a fruitful moment of tension, but in many songs the lasting impression became mostly uniform. If you think about what a 'real' drummer could have done in the line-up, it feels sad that Martyn chose this route.
In some cases, however, it worked extremely suggestively. The monotonous rhythm held on for so long that one's own heart beat eventually started to go at the same rate. Then the music was full of power and meaning.
§ The MOST IMPORTANT thing, of course, is John Martyn's singing, which is very special. It is impossible to understand the text, other than in scattered words and phrases. The voice is primarily used as an instrument and an effective one. He has a hoarse and deep voice which is excellent for the sad and melancholic mood his songs are often in.
John Martyn is an artist for substitute life sufferers. The impact of him on stage sometimes becomes purely religious. However, he does not talk much between songs, a simple Thank You is everything. Still, he became significantly more open in the course of the evening, mostly because of the audience's acclaim and warmth.
§ JUDGED BY APPEARANCE, the audience largely consisted of people who already had been listening to John Martyn for a while. If not, it is only to be hoped that many people have discovered that it is not only Over The Rainbow, but rather that there is a treasure at the end of the rainbow.
□ JOHN MARTYN has been in Uppsala with musician Foster Paterson. Martyn should have won with a real band behind him. Now the impression was mostly a static plod.
Foster Paterson got his misspelled as Floyd Patterson. The date of the newspaper is unknown but it was published in the Upsala Nya Tidning.