WELL KEPT SECRET
Over the course of 12 albums, John Martyn evolved from a Dylanesque British folksinger to a jazz-influenced electric guitarist and semi-mystical writer and singer. But none of those albums sold much at all, particularly in the U.S. So WELL KEPT SECRET, his second for Genesis' Duke label, offers a different, more commercial Martyn, placing him in various mainstream rock, pop and funk settings. Though his sleepy-bear voice hasn't actually changed much, in this context he sounds more than a little like Michael McDonald.
There's still a good deal of diversity here: Never Let Me Go is a standard jazz ballad complete with tenor sax solo, while the guitar-heavy hard rock of Love Up would have fit on a Billy Squier album. A fretless bass balloons in the background of Hung Up, and a full-scale disco orchestra powers You Might Need a Man. Some of the other cuts are filler; a title like Hiss On The Tape betrays last-minute studio inspiration.
Despite the lush production, Martyn dominates the proceedings with his romantic growling. But while new listeners may be charmed, longtime fans may find the worth of his new course debatable.
This review was published in the Daily Record (Morristown, New Jersey) of Sunday 13 February 1983.