Leeds University

Martyn Pure Sensitivty.

As someone recently remarked, it seems as if two of Britain’s finest songwriters and performers are about to achieve the kind of recognition they have long deserved. Both Roy Harper and John Martyn have created work of a consistently high standard over the last five years and more, and thankfully it looks as if they’re going to gain wider acceptance at a time when they’re hitting their respective peaks of creative energy.

Like Harper, Martyn has remained outside the mainstream of English songwriting,  working in a highly individual area with an unparalleled degree of sensitivity, It’s a quality that’s virtually absent in the work of the majority of his contemporaries, and was strongly in evidence at his concert, last week at Leeds University.

He’s working these days with bassist Danny Thompson, an extraordinary musician who complements Martyn perfectly, and drummer John Stevens, another excellent musician who’s a sensitive and intelligent asset to the Martyn/Thompson axis. Martyn opened the concert with Thompson, on the beautiful “May You Never.” The two produced an endlessly varied series of rnusicial textures, and indeed, Martyn’s vision seems limitless.

Totally unrestrained by any musical convention he moves with consummate ease through moods, creating isolated corners of concentrated emotions. He’s closer to Tim Buckley than anyone I can think of, and although he denies ever having heard Buckley, the vocal similarity on “Bless The Weather” was remarkably striking. The most impressive number of the evening was the stunning “I’ Rather Be The Devil” (although , “Solid Air” ran it a close second).

Stevens and Thompson created a dramatic counterpoint to Martyn’s virtuoso guitar playing, and his voice, blurred one moment and soaring clear the next, again brought to mind Tim Buckley’s “Lorca ” and “Starsailor” period, Paul Kossoff joined the band for the final numbers, and at first it seemed that his introduction would seem a little superfluous, but his lead guitar, leant even greater emotion to the music.  The concert was being recorded for a live album for Island. I hope the tapes were running, it was a memorable night.

Allan Jones
Melody Maker
22 February 1975

Leeds University
13 February 1975