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Tapestry Of Delights:
Glaswegian Martyn was born in 1948 and brought up by his grandmother and father. In the late sixties he moved down to London and built up a following on the London folk circuit. He signed to Island and in February 1968 his debut album, London Conversation, appeared. It stuck closely to the standard folk formula, but the follow-up, The Tumbler, was more adventurous. It's rumoured to have been recorded in an afternoon and was produced by Al Stewart. Of particular note was Dusty, which captured guest jazz flautist Harold MacNair in fine fettle. Martyn could have just consolidated on these two respected debuts but he was far more enterprising. The turning point came when he met and quickly married singer Beverley Kutner, who issued a couple of singles on Deram. The duo were signed by Warner Brothers, sent to Woodstock to rehearse and then, under Joe Boyd's production, recorded Stormbringer. The album was notable for the introduction of Martyn's pioneering guitar sound and technique on a couple of tracks, Would You Believe Me and The Ocean, whilst another cut, John The Baptist, was issued on a 45, but it made no commercial impact.
The other album he made with his wife, The Road To Ruin, used jazz instrumentation in a rock format. It was also the first to feature Pentangle bassist, Danny Thompson, who was very influential in John's future development. At this point, the arrival of a second child halted Beverley's musical ambitions, so for his fifth album, Bless The Weather, Martyn put together a backing band, including Danny Thompson and former Fairport Convention man Richard Thompson. The title track, in particular, became a long-time favourite with his fans and it featured him for the first time playing acoustic guitar through an echo unit which coupled with his unique vocal style made for a very distinctive sound.
Many regard his next album, Solid Air, as his finest. It developed the amplified guitar technique of the previous album further. He again put together an impressive array of talented individuals to assist him. Indeed, Free's Paul Kossoff played drums and backing guitar on May You Never, a song he'd written for his son. The highlight, though, was the hypnotic title track, written for his friend and tormented soul Nick Drake, who committed suicide within the year.
Inside Out found Martyn at his most experimental, playing a sort of free-form jazz with some typically inventive guitar work, supported by another talented array of musicians. It received much critical acclaim. By contrast, Sunday's Child returned to a more traditional folk format with songs like Spencer The Rover. Beverley sang vocals on My Baby Girl.
In 1975, he took to the road in earnest with a touring band which included Danny Thompson (bs), John Stevens (drms) and Paul Kossoff (gtr). On the course of the tour a vibrant appearance at Leeds University was recorded for a live album but when Island didn't want to release it, Martyn sold copies by mail order from his home. 10,000 were pressed and many were personally signed and numbered. Inevitably, it became a collector's item but is easier to obtain now by virtue of its reissue in 1987.
01. Primrose Hill 2:58
02. Parcels 3:28
03. Auntie Aviator 6:04
04. New Day 4:00
05. Give Us A Ring 3:53
06. Sorry To Be So Long 4:44
07. Tree Green 3:13
08. Say What You Can 3:07
09. Road To Ruin 6:28
10. Here I Am (Bonus Track) 4:24
John Martyn - vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards
Beverley Martyn - vocals, guitar
Dudu Pukwana - saxophone on "Road to Ruin", "Sorry To Be So Long", "Say What You Can"
Lyn Dobson - flute on "New Day"; saxophone on "Say What You Can"
Dave Pegg - bass on "Say What You Can" & "Give Us A Ring"
Rocky Dzidzornu - congas
Paul Harris - keyboards
Wells Kelly - drums on all tracks, except "Auntie Aviator"; bass on "Auntie Aviator"
Mike Kowalski - drums on "Auntie Aviator"
Alan Spenner - bass on "Primrose Hill", "Road to Ruin", "Sorry To Be So Long"
Ray Warleigh - saxophone on "Primrose Hill"
Danny Thompson - double bass on "New Day"