John Martyn – One World (ILPS 9492)

My previous experience with John Martyn is not a happy one; I got Solid Air, a reputed masterpiece, when it was re-issued on CD in the early 2000’s only to find it pretentious, distractingly sung and, ultimately, unlistenable.  I got rid of it after a couple years of periodically giving it it’s fair shakes.

One World (1977) is a different kettle of mixed metaphors. How to even categorise this slick, rhythmically complex album?  And what was it doing in a pile of crappy easy listening records at the Ashford boot fair for 50p? I can’t answer the latter but as to the former, we could judge it by its A-list players and call it: folk (Dave Pegg, Martyn himself), pop (Stevie Winwood), outernational (Morris Pert, Rico, Lee Perry) or jazz (Danny Thompson). It is none of these: it is something altogether different or, rather, it sounds like a blend of all of them with added electronica (via extensive but judicious use of Echoplex [no, not that one] looping on the big man’s guitar). The album’s vocals, such a bugbear for me on Solid Air, are a particular revelation; alternately gruff and sweet, Martyn seems to have absorbed by this point more swing and nuance, even mimicking Perry’s cadence on the co-written “Big Muff”.

An atmospheric gem of a record.

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

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