JOHN MARTYN; Glorious Fool
The accolade “genius” doesn’t often apply in popular music. The self-impositions of a unit-shifting style are usually too strict; the temptations to capitulate under the pressure of fashion normally prove too strong; the necessity to promote and project invariably conspire to relegate any sincere self-expression to the realms of self parody.
Occasionally, though, through some indomitable sense of character, a performer might play by the rules and yet still remain his/her own master: Beefheart and Lowell George spring to mind and, lesser only through overaccessibility, there’s John Martyn. Glorious Fool is his 12th indispensable album out of 12, each, through its beautifully expressive vocals, unflinching lyrics and instrumental dexterity, among the most painfully personal ever produced.
Sod sensuality and cheap titillation, much of this album is LUST. Perfect Hustler is desperate with desire; a samba positively hostile with the hots. Didn’t Do That is frantic with jealousy, Never Say Never is the sound of a macho ego exploding. Only Tim Buckley ever dumped this much sex onto vinyl.
Produced by Phil Collins, with guest appearances from him, the Specials’ Dick Cuthell on brass, and even Eric Clapton, Glorious Fool is a brilliantly blatant bid for the long deserved big time, emphatically more mainstream than its predecessors, and reminiscent of Collins’ soulful solo efforts.
It couldn’t be classed as a crucial evolution, it’s simply another John Martyn album and that makes it one of this year’s (any year’s) finest. Buy it; laugh, cry and live with it… then get back out there and buy the rest.
19 September 1981