The Road To Ruin (1970)

Released in November 1970. John had numerous disagreements with Joe Boyd over the production of this album and, because of the numerous overdubs , John felt that the recording lack spontaneity. The album featured the introduction of the talents of bass player Danny Thompson. There was some discussion as to what to call Say What You Can and in the sleeve notes it is also referred to as Let It Happen. Good friend and musician Paul Wheeler wrote Give Us A Ring.

The Road to Ruin, John explains “is really an adolescents’ views of mortality, you know the idea, isn’t all fun, we’re all doomed but we may as well enjoy it: we’re all going one way, but we may as well get down to it while we’re here.”

“The Road To Ruin stands apart from other John Martyn albums…it enjoys distinctly jazz instrumentation in what is basically a rock format.” (Andy Childs, ZigZag No.41)

John stopped gigging for some time and spent an increasing amount of time with his family in their home at Hastings. He was soon to become a father for the second time. After The Road To Ruin, Joe Boyd disbanded Witchseason and decided that John and Beverley should record solo albums. Of this quiet period John said, “…we hadn’t had a number one single, and Radio One didn’t like us, and all that kind of stuff. There wasn’t too much interest from the A&R men and the powers that be, so Island said, ‘Give him six grand and see what he comes up with’….And that’s how the next album, Bless The Weather came about.”

  1. The Road To RuinPrimrose Hill (B. Martyn)
  2. Parcels (J. Martyn)
  3. Auntie Aviator (J. Martyn, B. Martyn)
  4. New Day (J. Martyn)
  5. Give Us A Ring (Paul Wheeler)
  6. Sorry To Be So Long (J. Martyn, B. Martyn)
  7. Tree Green (J. Martyn)
  8. Say What You Can (J. Martyn, B. Martyn)
  9. Road To Ruin (J. Martyn)

 

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Stormbringer! (1970)

In 1969 John met and married Beverley Kutner who was making records at the time with Joe Boyd of Witchseason. John was originally hired to be Beverley’s backing guitarist for recording sessions. This album was released in February 1970 having been recorded in Woodstock. John was inspired by The Band and the album included Levon Helm on drums. John began to experiment to find a distinctive guitar sound. Would You Believe Me is the stand out track which featured the introduction of the echoplex guitar technique which John pioneered and is still a major part of his gigs today.

John The Baptist / The Ocean was released by Island as a single in January 1970 on the highly collectable ‘pink’ label. The album was cut in the summer of 1969 under the direction of Paul Harris. Joe Boyd rented John and Beverley a house in Woodstock.

John felt that the album was just a little bit ahead of it’s time, saying “…a whole lot came from that record…like people started using drum ideas and stuff, and nobody had really thought of using drums with acoustic instruments before. But it’s difficult to say that sort of thing without being conceited.”

John said, “It was the year of the festival. We just lived there and worked with Paul Harris very quickly and very briefly and we just went into the studio and did it very one-off, very swift. Levon Helm and Harvey Brooks we met in Woodstock and used them, just because they were friends. It seemed obvious that they should be on it. Dylan lived up the road, and Hendrix lived virtually next door. He used to arrive every Thursday in a purple helicopter, stay the weekend, and leave on the Monday. He was amazing…a good lad.”

 

  1. Stormbringer CoverGo Out And Get It (J. Martyn)
  2. Can’t Get The One I Want (B. Martyn)
  3. Stormbringer (J. Martyn)
  4. Sweet Honesty (B. Martyn)
  5. Woodstock (J. Martyn)
  6. John The Baptist (J. Martyn)
  7. The Ocean (J. Martyn)
  8. Traffic-Light Lady (J. Martyn)
  9. Tomorrow Time (B. Martyn)
  10. Would You Believe Me (J. Martyn)

 

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Bless The Weather (1971)

Released in November 1971 Bless The Weather was an album of pure, simple but mature songs which John says was “very innocent, very beautiful and a pleasure to make.” Some of the songs were written in the studio on the day they were recorded, satisfying John’s desire to be spontaneous. Danny Thompson provided bass accompaniment and Richard Thompson, Tony Reeves (Colosseum), Ian Whiteman and Roger Powell (Mighty Baby) all played on the album.  Glistening Glyndebourne showcased John’s technique of playing acoustic guitar through the echoplex to stunning effect, although Rolling Stone magazine dismissed the track as “rambling !” The short but sweet sleeve note “So nice to see our John again” was penned by Paul Wheeler.

“A masterpiece…John continues to stay several steps in front of his contemporaries with tracks like ‘Glistening Glyndebourne !” (Sounds 27/11/71)

“Most of the songs on Bless The Weather were very quick. I’d been writing songs in the studio on the day they were recorded. It’s much nicer like that…to be spontaneous. There was no re-writing, it just came out very naturally. I much prefer that approach,” said John, “People kind of sat up and took notice of me after that album, I don’t know why…”

“Without elaborating on Bless The Weather too much, let me say that it is a fabulous album, quite definitely one of the very best of 1971, and one which you should spare no amount of trouble over to possess. Every song is a gem…” (Andy Childs, ZigZag No.41)

“Glistening Glyndebourne, seven and a half minutes of heat shimmering instrumental.” (Dark Star)

Bless The Weather

  1. Go Easy (J. Martyn)
  2. Bless The Weather (J. Martyn)
  3. Sugar Lump (J. Martyn)
  4. Walk On The Water (J. Martyn)
  5. Just Now (J. Martyn)
  6. Head And Heart (J. Martyn)
  7. Let The Good Things Come (J. Martyn)
  8. Back Down The River (J. Martyn)
  9. Glistening Glyndebourne (J. Martyn)
  10. Singin’ In The Rain (Brown, Freed)
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Solid Air (1973)

Released in February 1973, Solid Air is regarded by many as the John Martyn album. The title track (Solid Air) was written for friend and peer Nick Drake and concerned Drake’s mental strife at the time. (Drake took his own life the following year, a great loss to John personally, and to music generally). Adventurous, dynamic, with a rare depth and power, the album demonstrated John’s slurred vocal style, reaching the state where it became fully integrated into the overall sound as an improvisational instrument used for it’s colors of tone, something John has always aimed for. Musicians included Danny Thompson, Richard Thompson, John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks and Simon Nicol.

John said, “Now Solid Air… I really like the title track. It was done for a friend of mine [Nick Drake], and it was done right with very clear motives, and I’m very pleased with it, for varying reasons. It has got a very simple message, but you’ll have to work that one out for yourself.”

May You Never / Just Now was released by Island as a single in November 1971. This early version of the later album track featured drums and Paul Kossof of free on the guitar. John didn’t like the way the track was turning out and left the producer “Robin somebody or other” to overdub and put it together. According to John it, “sold four copies.” The album sold well in the UK and America.

“A great album…as a single overall expression ‘Solid Air’ flows beautifully and shows the entire spectrum of music that John Martyn has at his fingertips.” (Sounds 7/4/73)

“Solid Air…if I had to decide, would probably rank as my favourite of the whole lot.” (Andy Childs, ZigZag No.41)

“Solid Air shines out like a beacon in the darkness.” (Pippin)

“Once in a while you hear a song that finds its way deep into your memory, and you find yourself humming along. This album has more than its share of fine songs like that, but noticeably Go Down Easy and May You Never.” (Pippin)

“With mellow jazzy flourishes and warm acoustic sounds, Solid Air is the musical equivalent of a reassuring hug…the man Beth Orton calls The Guv’nor achieved the impossible: he made a quiveringly sexy folk record.” – (Q, 1999 voting Solid Air as one of the best chill-out albums of all time)

Many of these songs were used for the soundtrack to the film Titanic Town in 1999.

  1. Solid Air Solid Air (J. Martyn)
  2. Over The Hill (J. Martyn)
  3. Don’t Want To Know (J. Martyn)
  4. I’d Rather Be The Devil (S. James)
  5. Go Down Easy (J. Martyn)
  6. Dreams By The Sea (J. Martyn)
  7. May You Never (J. Martyn)
  8. The Man In The Station (J. Martyn)
  9. The Easy Blues (J. Martyn)

 

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Inside Out (1973)

Released in October 1973. John described Inside Out as “everything I ever wanted to do in music… it’s my inside coming out.” The album was experimental, a skillfully free-form jazz orientated album featuring superb guitar work by John and superbly varied bass playing from Danny Thompson. Other musicians included Traffic’s Steve Winwood and Chris Wood, Bobby Keyes and Remi Kabaka. The intensive recording sessions were largely late at night with no cutting, editing or splicing. It was “live” and tracks were faded out where necessary. The album won John a Golden Disc from Montreaux. Considered by critics as a “cosmic foray.” At the time John explained that Inside Out was all about the concept of love…

“It felt natural”, said John at the beginning of the track Fine Lines.

“I think I’ll always use Danny Thompson because he’s got real feel for my music and I’ve got real feel for his.”

“A celebration of love – his playing has reached an uplifting intensity, the equal of anything on offer at present…I unreservedly recommend it !” (Melody Maker 13/10/73)

  1. Inside Out Fine Lines (J. Martyn)
  2. Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhaill (Traditional arranged by J. Martyn)
  3. Ain’t No Saint (J. Martyn)
  4. Outside In (J. Martyn)
  5. The Glory Of Love (B. Hill)
  6. Look In (J. Martyn)
  7. Beverley (J. Martyn)
  8. Make No Mistake (J. Martyn)
  9. Ways To Cry (J. Martyn)
  10. So Much In Love With You (J. Martyn)
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Sunday’s Child (1975)

Released 24th January 1975 and recorded and mixed during August 1974 at Island Studios. The sessions were short but intensive, producing songs of considerable contrasts from the boogie of Clutches, to the traditional folk song of Spencer The Rover. The overall feel of the album is one of contentment and John called it ‘the family album, very happy purely romantic…a nice period’, an impression borne out by My Baby Girl, which featured Beverley on vocals for the last time.

The Message is a very underrated song and worthy of more attention than it gets. Many of the songs such as One Day Without You, Lay It All Down and You Can Discover are pure emotion and romanticism. My Baby Girl and Spencer The Rover are dedicated to two of John’s children.

“Simply one of the best British albums made in the 1970’s…it just seems to get better all the time…” (ZigZag 3/77)

  1. Sunday's ChildOne Day Without You (J. Martyn)
  2. Lay It All Down (J. Martyn)
  3. Root Love (J. Martyn)
  4. My Baby Girl (J. Martyn)
  5. Sunday’s Child (J. Martyn)
  6. Spencer The Rover (Traditional arranged by J. Martyn)
  7. Clutches (J. Martyn)
  8. The Message (J. Martyn)
  9. Satisfied Mind (Traditional arranged by J. Martyn)
  10. You Can Discover (J. Martyn)
  11. Call Me Crazy (J. Martyn)
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