The Island Years

John Martyn: The Island Years
4 out of 5 stars.

John Martyn was an inventive, erratic genius, a one-time folk hero who became influenced by everything from funk to reggae to pop. This extensive 18-disc set covers his glory years with Island Records, and includes all his studio albums from 1967-1987, but it is notable for its wealth of previously unreleased material, including the original recording of The Apprentice, an album that Island scrapped. It includes a pleasantly funky treatment of The River, along with some forgettable pop balladry. Martyn was at his best playing live, as shown by two remarkable unreleased concert performances. He shows off his humour and an early version of Bless the Weather (a song that appears seven times here) at a London club in 1972 and is in classic form playing in Australia in 1977, veering from experimental electric guitar work to a gently exquisite treatment of the traditional Spencer the Rover. Devotees will not be disappointed.

Robin Denselow
The Guardian
3 October 2013