Martyn Joseph – singer songwriter still going strong since the Eighties. I first discovered Martyn on a CD single ‘Dolphins Make me Cry’ (actually a song by Fred Neil, he of Everybody’s Talkin of Nilsson fame) and went out and bought his album, and many many more since then. An absolute top ten favourite artist, I have seen him live a few times, and been photographed with him. He is absolutely uncorrupted by fame – mostly because he avoids it; simply making his records and singing live and garnering enough of an audience to keep on going without hits or huge record company promotion. A socialist and a Christian and a proud Welshman – I love him. He reminds me so much of the singer-songwriters emerging in the late Sixties and early Seventies. First up is about his sixth album (still haven’t got round to digging out his earlier ones) Being There (1992); by now all the elements were there, beautiful acoustic guitar and that yearning yet amazing voice – oh, and the songs – which is really the key. He sings about ordinary people and ordinary emotions – a bit like a British Springsteen (see S). So, best songs – the title track of course, ‘Working Mother’ (who is a part-time prostitute to pay the bills), ‘Swansea’ (squaddies reminiscing and wishing they were back home), ‘Please Sir’ (a kid asks why his redundant miner cries at night) and of course the beautiful ‘Dolphins’. Next is 95’s self-titled album Martyn Joseph (which may have been the record companies attempt to stir some new interest). Well, another great album with some classic songs – best of which are ‘Cardiff bay’, ‘Talk About It In The Morning’ and ‘Carried In Sunlight’. A hauntingly lovely record. Next up was Full Colour Black and White (1996). And the great songs just kept on coming, favourites include ‘Arizona Dreams’, ‘The Ballad of Richard Penderyn’ (a very personal take on a Welsh working-class hero) and ‘Hang The World.’ Following on in 1998 is Tangled Souls, another classic album. I really don’t know how a singer like Martyn can keep on coming up with such brilliant new songs – but he does. Another album packed with great songs – ‘Somewhere In America’, ‘I Don’t Know Why’ and ‘Sing To My Soul’. Next is a live CD, which I got from The Passport Queue, which was a fan magazine sent out by Martyn three or four times a year…Live at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff. This was a 1995 concert; I know I saw him there once , but I think it was a few years later. A lovely acoustic album, mostly just Martyn and his guitar – nicely they have included his in-between songs chat and tuning his guitar. On some songs he expands the words as if he is in a trance before bringing the song back to its conclusion. Best songs ‘An Aching and a Longing’, ‘Between the Rainbows’ and ‘Carried in Sunlight’. A very nice addition to my collection.
Then we have what, at the time, was really my favourite album of his – a long title; Whoever It Was That Brought Me Here, Will Have To Take me Home (2003). But now, with the space of distance, I feel that while another excellent album I quite like the older albums better. Still, a cracker of an album – opener ‘Love Is’ soon became a live favourite. Also excellent are the title track and ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘Walk Down The Mountain’. This is a quieter album, with his voice softer, almost whispering at times. Then I have a double live album; Folk Faith and Anarchy (2004). This is actually a rather unusual record – it is a collaboration between Martyn, Tom Robinson and Steve Knightley; they toured the UK and I saw them live. They sang some of their own songs but also each other’s, so a really interesting evening. Anyway, I really like this record, especially the contributions from Tom – ‘War Baby’ and ‘Tattooed Me’, and Steve’s ‘Yeovil Town’. Next is Run For Cover (also 2004) where Martyn sings some of his favourite songs by other artists; Dylan, Springsteen, U2 and others. I especially like ‘The Mayor Of Candor’ by Harry Chapin (see C) and ‘One Of Us’ by Joan Osborne (see O) and of course ‘Anthem’ by Leonard Cohen. Call these covers records self-indulgent, and maybe they are – but I do quite like them. Deep Blue (2006) followed; another quite quiet album, although it does contain ‘Proud Valley Boy’ – a song about the time that Paul Robson came to sing for the miners in the valleys of Wales. I also love ‘I Can’t Breathe’ and ‘Turn Me Tender’ – another great album. Also in 2006 Martyn released MJGB06 – which is a live concert from Greenbelt Festival. Nothing really different, but some good live versions of old and more recent favourites. Vegas (2007) followed – a slightly more upbeat album. Not really my favourite record; not that it is bad by any means, it is just me I expect. It is just sometimes you get a bit of overload, and unless something really grabs you, you simply listen and file away without truly realising the songs. Saying that, relistening again I do like a few songs which at first I probably ignored. ‘Coming Down’ is one of those bluesy songs which slowly worm their way into your brain. ‘The Fading Of The Light’ has a tentative melody and lovely words. And the closer ‘Nobody Gets Everything’ has a sadness and truth about it. Martyn, like most performers I suspect, has found that as time goes by his songs, especially sung every night, change from their recorded versions. So, in 2008 he released updated versions of some of his songs. The album called Evolved is mostly acoustic guitar and voice, I know the songs almost by heart and love these evolved versions. Nothing new here but a lovely resume of his career – every song is a winner. Under Lemonade Skies came out in 2010; at the time it rapidly became a favourite. Some artists can simply do no wrong; he seems to grow better as time passes. A lot of barely sung slow songs; ‘There’s Always Maybe’, social conscience songs – ‘So Many Lies’ and ‘Lonely like America’ and the elegiac closer ‘Brothers In Exile’. A superb album. Songs For The Coming Home (2012) is up next. Another classic album with Martyn almost losing himself in the songs – best are ‘Falling From Grace’, ‘Still A Lot Of Love’ and ‘Archive’. Tires Rushing By In The Rain – (2013) is another covers album – but this time all the songs are Bruce Springsteens. I love it and at 17 songs it is a tad overlong, but hey – I cannot fault a single song. Favourites are ‘The River’, ‘One Step Up’ and ‘Growing Up’. I could listen to this all day – and just have done….hahaha. Next was an a album called Sanctuary, and I bought the accoustic version (2016). This is really quite e demo version. Not really so good, and I cant say I loved the songs – still. I was for a while a member of The Passport Queue, which was Martyn’s fan club. Occasionally you would receive free CDs of rare and live stuff. Lyrics and Landscapes – was a Radio Wales broadcast of an interview with Martyn and a few of his songs – quite pleasant but nothing new. Best of them was Summer of Flowers, which had a lot of original stuff on it and a few live songs and interviews in Canada. Last, but not least is a double greatest hits album Thunder and Rainbows, a gorgeous collection of his songs, almost all my favourites are there and mostly it is the slightly earlier stuff. Hard to keep up as Martyn continues to release new stuff and I am about 2 albums behind as I write. One of my very special favourite artists.