My Record Collection 145

George Martin – was, of course, the producer of The Beatles – and a huge part of their success.   Unashamedly trading on that he released an album of Beatles covers which he produced by various artists called In My life.  Actually it is not at all bad, though one or two choices are poor – best are Phil Collins playing and singing the segue from Abbey Road ‘Golden Slumbers’ and the last track – ‘In My Life’ spoken brilliantly by Sean Connery in that wonderful Scottish burr of a voice.

Alice Martineau – A French singer, singing in English.  Not sure where this came from.  It is okay in a way, quite pleasant really – but hardly a star piece in my collection. 

John Martyn – guitarist extraordinaire who took mostly acoustic playing to places nobody had approached before or since.  Not a bad voice either.  He came out of folk and took the genre towards rock and even inspired a much later generation of trip-hoppers with his sublime melodies.  Like many great artists he started in the sixties leaving his native Scotland for London – and his first album was called London Conversation (1967) – not a very inspiring start really, a run-of-the-mill sort of a record; the songs are okay but not brilliant; voice and guitar are pleasant but nothing more and the attempt at Sitar is quite embarrassing.  Best songs – ‘Cocaine’ and Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice’.  Next up is a collaboration with his then wife Beverley Martyn – Stormbringer (1970).  Beverley has a clear high voice, typical of folk-singers from the 60’s.  The album is quite pleasant, the songs are better and John’s voice and guitar exemplary.  Best are the title track, ‘Tomorrow Time’ and ‘Would you believe Me’.   The couple apparently divorced soon after this and John continued on his own.   Which brings me to John’s breakthrough album Bless The Weather (1971).  This was my first purchase and I worked back from there.  This is a classic album of the early Seventies and has long been a real favourite of mine.  The whole thing has such a relaxed feel, the songs drifting into each other with John’s lazy, almost slurred vocals, and great guitar playing just carrying each song.  Hard to pick favourites, but of course the title track is simply wonderful, there is also the instrumental ‘Glistening Glyndbourne’ which is scintillating and shimmering.  There is also ‘Go Easy’ and the rocking ‘Sugar Lump’ but best for me is the quite sad but gorgeous ‘Just Now’.   And like so many other artists, John struggled to make as good a record again, though some came pretty close.  In fact, the follow-up Solid Air the following year was a bigger seller mainly because of the fabulous title track, is almost as good as Bless The Weather.  The song has become an icon for a new generation of blissed out trip hop fans and was years ahead of its time.  It seems to drift in and out and somehow never quite comes to a climax, simply weaving a magic spell around John’s ethereal guitar and gentle voice; a superb track.  The actual album is more varied, with a few faster tracks.  I also love ‘Go Down Easy’ and ‘May You Never’.  Another excellent album.  John was a complicated man, who hovered on the edge of real fame, but never quite achieved it.  He struggled with relationships and his addictions to drugs and alcohol. In fact, his hard drinking resulted in illness, a leg amputation and, eventually, a quite early death.  He continued making excellent albums though.  I don’t have many – I suppose I was too busy with other great artists.  The Seventies were an incredible time with so many wonderful artists that John simply slipped through my net.  My next album is Grace and Danger (1980).  This was actually a break-up album, similar in a way to Dylan’s Blood On The tracks (see D) and Phil Collins’ Face Values (see C) and in fact Phil played drums on this record.  Exposing your heart is a dangerous thing, especially on record, but it can also be therapeutic and part of the healing process.   But somehow, I am not that fond of this record, nice songs mostly but seems a bit meandering really.  Best are ‘Some People Are Crazy’, ‘Johnny Too Bad’ and ‘Hurt In Your Heart’.   My only other studio album is 1986’s Sapphire, which again I can’t really get into.   I really like ‘Fisherman’s Dream’ but not much else…oh well.  I have a live double Live At Leeds (1975) which has some much longer versions of songs – best are ‘Inside Out’, ‘Solid Air’ and ‘Bless The Weather’ – songs I already know so well.  Then a compilation of sorts Solid Air, Classics Revisited – a lot of demos and alternate or live performances -best are ‘Angeline’ and ‘Rock Salt and Nails’.  Then I have Late Night John –  best of…nothing really new.  I suppose I will always revere Bless The Weather and Solid Air.  John died a few years ago, I saw an interview with him, and despite the amputation he seemed happy enough.