Tuesday, February 12, 2013

40 Year Itch : Living On Solid Air

"I didn't like that finger-in-the-ear stuff. I'm a funky, not a folkie."
 -John Martyn

 Described as a "poet-ruffian" by the Guardian, the tempestuous John Martyn released his best album, Solid Air, in February of 1973. It's one of those middle of the night folk-jazz "growers" that, if heard at the right time, will mesmerize its listener. Fans of Terry Callier, Beth Orton and Nick Drake should find something special here.

     Martyn had already made five albums by the time he entered the studio with acoustic bassist Danny Thompson and Fairport Convention's Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks. Playing an effects-laden acoustic guitar, Martyn and his band explored that place where deeply personal lyrics meet hallucinogenic improvisation.

The title cut was dedicated to Martyn's friend , Nick Drake, who had died of an overdose 18 months earlier.

Of the song Martyn said "Now Solid Air... I really like the title track. It was done for a friend of mine [Nick Drake], and it was done right with very clear motives, and I'm very pleased with it, for varying reasons. It has got a very simple message, but you'll have to work that one out for yourself."

The best known song, his tribute to kinship "May You Never", was covered ( some say "butchered") by Eric Clapton on Slowhand, earning Martyn a sizable royalty check. At a lifetime achievement award for Martyn, Clapton sent a message saying Martyn was "so far ahead of everything, it's almost inconceivable".

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