HEAVEN AND EARTH – JOHN MARTYN

“… took all my colours – left me only blue…”

Heaven and Earth is John Martyn’s final album. Recorded in his home in Ireland all the tracks were finished it seems some time before his death and now finally released.

For those of us touched by the man and his music he holds a special place, outside the commercial industry of the “music business”. With John it is always personal.

On a first play I was not really sure but with the assistance of some herbal remedy and a bottle of wine I have to say  I am regular listener.

I felt compelled to review this after reading a few reviews on the net, which for me missed the point. This is not I feel meant to be a fully produced release but the last tunes as they went down. The reviews seem to suggest these tracks are not fully edited or arranged I feel losing the point of what is actually here. It is really all about the groove and that is certainly in there, taking ideas and going with them, soulful and gently funky.  Listening to the album as whole I was reminded of why I loved John live so much, the way he could take a vibe and run with it, seeing him up there just with the tune his voice and guitar, the band slipping and sliding around him.

Of course this is not Solid Air or One World but it is not meant to be. Time and life moves on and this is where he was at. If you want those earlier albums they are still all there – you can hear more of those tunes on the radio show at the link below. This is where all that stuff ended up.

There were some comments which  imply his voice is not so strong and his guitar playing is somewhat muted. I have to say if that is a ‘shot’ voice, but it is still connected directly to his soul. The guitar is still there but as always it not always used upfront and straight, (A thing he never liked –  it’s all about feel not flash) and it is the voicings and twists weaving the the sound together  that give the tunes depth as it swerves in and out of the mix, often leaving you guessing if it is a synth or a guitar. He also does the odd bit of rocking out as in Bad Company.

Don’t forget this is the only man on the planet who can actually make Phil Collins sound anything like cool!

The last track Willing to Work (originally the title track) is an eight-minute track noted as a loose jam in the reviews but to these ears is classic JM, big groove, abstract vocals and the use of backing singers with fine Hammondy organ. The tune finishes with John’s dog Gizmo barking along, as John sings, “So willing to work I even bought my dog along” – well it put a smile on my face. Any album that ends like that is OK in my book . . . .

So give it a go, feel the spirit and get in the groove. . . !

John Martyn Obituary and Radio Show

John Martyn Website

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