Glasgow Walker (2000)
John’s first new material in four years since the release of And (The Church With One Bell, 1998, is an album of cover songs and an excellent one at that). Glasgow Walker, released on 22nd May 2000, marks a departure for John in that it is the first album he has written on a keyboard instead of his trusty guitar. “Phil Collins suggested I should buy this certain type of keyboard (Korg Trinity) which he uses and that’s why it’s taken me three years to make the album. I had to spend eighteen months learning how to get a reasonable sound out of it. I still can’t really play it.” The album was remixed with additions from the Glasgow Gangster Funk Boys and later on Kathryn Williams added vocals which work very well on Can’t Live Without. John’s favourite song on the album is Wildflower, “That’s real heart on the sleeve stuff. You can’t mistake the emotion in that one.” John prefers writing love songs and says “They come easily to me. I don’t know why, it’s not as if I am an abnormally loving person. I’m an incurable romantic and that can be uncomfortable in these troubled an cynical times. But I am proud of it and I am not going to change now.”
One of the standout songs on the album is So Sweet. The song is about a friend of John’s who packed in her relationship with her boyfriend, and said how sweet it was to be free. John asked her if she found it painful, and she replied “Yeah, but sweet.” The working title for this song was ‘African’ not surprising given the strong African influence in the song. The funky Mama T is a song dedicated to his girlfriend, Theresa, or Mama T Razor, as she becomes known in the song. Perhaps John’s best vocal performance on the album comes last with You Don’t Know What Love Is. “Mostly I give my singing seven and a half out of ten,” John says modestly. “But about once every three years of so you hit nine and a half. And when it happens you never really know why it happens.” This song was recorded by John at the request of Anthony Minghella for his film The Talented Mr. Ripley and also appeared on the soundtrack album to the film. The Cat Won’t Work Tonight is not a love song. “The guy that was producing the record was wondering why the f*** didn’t I get on and do some work. So I started thinking about the word work and who works and who doesn’t. It’s so obscure nobody will understand it at all. I like the milk bottle solo,” laughs John. “It knocks all the other milk bottle solos into a cocked hat, really. It’s world class milk bottling.” One song that did not make it on to the album was Sergeant Sergeant. This is a song which features lyrics about many of John’s friends. John has performed the song live on one or two occasions and it proved popular with fans – lets hope it appears at some stage in the future. This is the first album to feature the musicianship of world renowned Chapman Stick player, Jim Lampi, who has played in John’s band for a number of years. Take a look at the Jim Lampi interview in which Jim demonstrates the versatility of the Chapman Stick.
“Martyn, great Brit blues voice and legendary, if now retired, piss-head, produces his first new gear in four years, some 30 years since his debut. It confirms his status as a bunch of bearded brilliance. Stand out tracks include So Sweet and the hypnotic Field of Play. He also rescues Julie London’s Cry Me A River from lame cover version hell. Above all else it’s the voice. Very peaty.”
**** Four stars from the Daily Mirror
“The first three songs are sensationally good………The Field of Play – a lovely, wistful melody, a roll of drums, and a refrain that says ‘time may break your heart, but your love will carry on’. In the hands of any modern R ‘n’ B singer you care to mention, this would have been pure saccharine, but Martyn keeps it not too sweet with his gruff vocals, airy production and musicians who, like him, come from the point where jazz and blues meet folk.”
**** Four stars from the Mail on Sunday
“He’s writing now as well as he did in his 1970’s heyday when albums like Stormbringer, Bless The Weather and Solid Air established his reputation as one of the most distinctive talents to emerge from the late 1960’s electric-folk scene.”
The Sunday Times
For his first collection of new songs in four years, Our Man With The Holy Holey Voice is much to be praised for having opted to tread certainly down a range of bewitching musical paths. Make your choice from a range which includes ambient steppers; moody autumnal strollers; misty eyed Afro-Celtic shoogles, and boastful and slightly ominous bursts of big-city funk nastiness. Moreover, Cry Me A River is transformed into a gem of tectonic-plate jazz, while as further testament to Martyn’s sure-footed and organic mastery of genre, the gospel-inflected Feel So Good could have come from Moby’s Play album – but only if Moby had grown up in Glasgow’s Soo’Side listening to Hamish Imlach and Captain Beefheart. Just as remarkably, Glasgow Walker was created with production assistance from renowned dramatist and emergent Hollywood auteur Anthony Minghella. Then again, it is an understated dramatic corker.
The Glasgow Herald, Mix Supplement
Not quite a legend [A legend if ever there was on! – Ed] but certainly more than just another hoary old vet, John Martyn is currently marking 30 years in ‘showbiz’ with an extensive UK tour and his first album of new material in some four years. Following ‘The Church With One Bell’ – 1998’s less than inspired [they must have a different copy to mine! – Ed] collection of covers – the just released ‘Glasgow Walker’ (Independiente) is a hugely impressive thing, and a significant return to form. Since his heady days – late ’60s through to the early ’80s, when he established his name with a series of inspired and inspiring works of jazz and blues-informed folk and rock (though such a glib overview really doesn’t do him justice) – Martyn’s life and career have vacillated somewhat. Through everything, however – the musical highs and alcohol-ravaged lows – a sense of driven artistry and impassioned spirit have remained constant.
Which is why it’s so heartening to report ‘Glasgow Walker’ such a fine record. Distinguished by his casually affecting and lugubriously slurred vocals, it is a work of beautiful melancholy and doughty romance. With eight originals and two similarly these covers (including a smartly reinvented ‘Cry Me A River’), the mood is tender and emotive, the sound slowed and snappy, dark and brooding. Evidencing, too, a sublte under-tow of eloquent languor, it aches and smoulders, nags and inveigles. If recent years have seen Martyn perhaps a little too content to rest on his reputation, this new work shows him very much back, and in control.
Time Out Magazine
John Martyn is still a subtle storm to be reckoned with. Martyn is best when he aches:’ So Sweet’ is as catchy as Westlife.
Around midnight, two bottles of red wine to the wind, this probably sounds like the greatest music on earth. It’s not a bad listen sober either.
John Aizelwood – Q magazine
This is probably his most assured album in a decade, a moving heart-on-sleeve affair that finds him in fine voice. Martyn has never sounded as Tender as on ‘Wildflower’ or ‘Mama T’ a warmth missing from recent offerings. The only two non-originals, ‘Cry Me A River’ and ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ (the latter from the film The Talented Mr. Ripley) reaffirm Martyn’s gift as an interpretive singer, that tattered, battered old voice bringing a very real personal dimension to these timeless standards.
The Birmingham Post
His curiously gruff and silky voice is still capable of magic, he sounds on tip top form here. The Scot seems to have re-found his song writing chops, with the opening ‘So Sweet’ ranking among his best work. Indeed, as a whole, ‘Glasgow Walker’ goes some distance to making up for the various disappointments of the past two decades.
Clark Collis – The Daily Telegraph
Martyn has produced a whole succession of excellent albums, and since his switch to Independiente from Island he has undergone something of a resurgence. ‘Glasgow Walker’ is his first album of new songs in four years and the romance is still there. Martyn has written some fabulous songs in his time, and this new collection has those mournful often doleful Martyn tones pleading the case for romanticism. I hope he never stops.
The Thurrock, Grays & Lakeside Post
For 30 years now John Martyn’s gruff, romantic Scottish burr has been taking the lead on some of the most fantastic records ever made. Simultaneously gritty and sweet, slurred yet articulate, sensual but earthy, he say’s more with the breaths between phrases than most singers can convey in an entire album. It’s a reaffirmation of everything he’s best at – beautiful, melancholic songs sung in inimitably tender style.
James Elliott – Ulster News Letter
Glasgow Walker is an album of beautiful, melancholic songs with emotive and rich lyrics perfectly suited to Martyn’s tender voice.
Evening courier – Halifax
His first LP of New songs since 1996’s ‘And’ is a return to what he does Best. Here he’s In that blissful state again and ‘Glasgow Walker’ is a collection of Sublime love songs. ‘Can’t Live Without’ finds him dueting with the fine young singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams. But the best is kept until last on ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’, a slow, late-night blues which produces his most impressive vocal performance on the record.
Nigel Williamson – Uncut
His work has almost always met the most exacting standards. ‘Glasgow Walker’ is no different. ‘Can’t Live Without’, which features a haunting vocal by Kathryn Williams, recalls the feel of his superb cover of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’. Martyn’s Ianguorous vocal all drip with an irresistible Sensuality. With ‘Glasgow Walker’ John Martyn keeps on keeping on. Long may he stroll.
Niall Stanage – Hot Press
- So Sweet (J. Martyn)
- Wildflower (J. Martyn)
- The Field Of Play (J. Martyn)
- Cool In This Life (J. Martyn)
- Feel So Good (J. Martyn)
- Cry Me A River (A. Hamilton)
- Mama T (J. Martyn)
- Can’t Live Without (J. Martyn)
- The Cat Won’t Work Tonight (J. Martyn)
- You Don’t Know What Love Is (D. Raye, G de Paul)