DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.
“Time after time I held it just to watch it die/ Line after line I loved it just to watch it cry.”
When the Impound discovers that someone is unfamiliar with John Martyn it pains us. To our perspective, a life without John Martyn is like a life without bacon, air or some other essential. Originally part of the late 60s British folk-rock boom, Martyn always stood a bit outside of the pack, singular from the start, a voice simultaneously youthful and eerily wise as if he’d lived several lifetimes before meeting us. There is tremendous power and mystery to Martyn’s dazzling, innovative guitar playing, timeless-minded songcraft, and spliff ‘n’ whiskey cured voice, a low, gripping rumble filled with love and its terrible cousins riding deeply natural yet curiously angled musical currents, sounds pleasing and profound snatched from behind the curtain of general consciousness and forged into music by this singular artist.
Perhaps the best jumping on point for neophytes is Martyn is 1971’s Bless The Weather, a truly transporting listening experience that deftly melds folk directness and subtle jazz sophistication – an artistic teeter-totter, occasionally punctuated by rock sharpness, that Martyn bounced on throughout his career. Emotionally, Bless The Weather steps lightly between growing despair, earnest affection, and qualified hopefulness. Martyn, even in his early years, had a way of digging into life as it’s really lived, the hard patches and tough-to-face reflections as relevant as the moments of contentment and dreams of connection and peace.
Aided by players of incredible feel and imagination like Danny Thompson (double bass), Roger Powell (future Utopia keyboardist), Richard Thompson (electric guitar) and then-spouse Beverley Martyn (backing vocals), Martyn begins to reveal the expressive wizardry that fully emerged during the 70s and 80s. The title track is haunting and yearning, and it’s joined by the hard-nosed lover’s benediction “Head and Heart,” a cheeky cover of “Singin’ In The Rain,” an early Echoplex experiment (a trajectory Martyn took to full fruition two years later on Inside Out), and a series of melancholy reveries that both fit the times and transcend it. Bless The Weather is Martyn’s first essential release but certainly not his last.