67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect
Solid Air is over thirty years old. I've heard a lot of music since, but it still sounds almost perfect. As it is an unlikely fusion of folk and free-form jazz, it must be something special to have been a success in the first place. There are beautifully crafted songs married to exquisite musicianship and Martyn's smoky delivery and ground-breaking guitar work. This...
Published on 12 April 2005 by Mr. M Errington
3.0 out of 5 stars It may be a landmark album but its not really ...
It may be a landmark album but its not really what I listen to normally
Published 1 day ago by Fireblade
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John's masterpiece,
I can honestly say that this is my all time number one album (probably). I saw John a few times in the 70's and occasionally through the 80's and 90's. I own all his official albums and a few more besides (beware the number of weird small label re-issues which turn out to be a repackage of earlier releases).
I have treasured his records as LPs and CDs (when the LPs were worn out or out-moded). There are some albums I have played over and over again - especially one world and sundays child, but it is solid air that I always come back to.
This is a unique album, by a huge talent. He has some very loyal fans (like me I guess) and his pretty constant touring has brought new generations to his music. Overall though I think that John's rather mercurial nature and idiosyncratic approach to the music business have kept him out of the main spot light - and his art has probably been the better for it. I have never met him in person but his music is part of me. If you only buy one JM album probably make it the island anthology 'Sweet Little Mysteries'- which covers great chucks of his best early albums. If you then get a taste, get solid air next - experience it as a whole. Turn it up loud to get you moving, or soft and low for that late night John experience. Absolutely recommended.
PS make sure you have got some decent speakers to experience the awesome Danny Thompson bass on the title track- worth the price of this re-master alone!
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sombre Yet Majestic,
I first heard this album at boarding school back in the Seventies and it has stayed in my collection ever since. It is one of the few recordings that I have owned in three formats: vinyl, cassette and CD. A highly evocative collection of music, Solid Air encourages gentle introspection and reflection, and brings back bittersweet memories of days long past. Martyn's amazing voice floats around you like a fat lazy bee on a summer afternoon, his guitar a perfect foil to Danny Thompson's fluid bass that slithers through the mix like a psychedelic snake. I used to think the title track was about heroin, but I understand now that it is a tribute to the late, great Nick Drake. A more fitting one I could not possible imagine. If you do not already own this album, make sure that it is on your list the next time you go record shopping. Unhesitatingly recommended!
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jazz Folk at its best,
By A Customer
I first heard John Martyn when "Sweet Little Mystery" came out in the early eighties (no relation to the awful stuff by Wet Wet Wet thank God) but at the time I was two young to appreciate it. Now that I've reached man's estate it's time to re-evaluate my tastes and I have to say that Solid Air is a aural treat from start to finish.
Recorded in 1973 Solid Air is like very few records you've heard before. The style is jazzy and folky - Martyn has a bass player who supplies some sublime licks to the whole proceedings, but it is a songwriter that Martyn's talents are seen to be outstanding. Songs like "Don't Want to Know" and "Over the Hill" are superb, the Nick Drake inspired title track sublime and "May You Never" positively anthemic.
Go out and buy this record. The re-release has additional liner notes and lyrics, and a bonus track of a live version of "I'd Rather be the Devil." All for less than eight quid - a bargain at any price.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking!,
Solid Air, Deluxe Edition. My God! I've been buying through Amazon for many years, but this is the first time I've ever been motivated to write a review. The standard of aural craftsmanship on this remastered recording is, not to put too fine a point on it, on par with the musical craftsmanship of the artist who's work is being re-presented here - The Master would certainly have been very happy with what I've just heard. It sounds absolutely fantastic. Suffice to say, if I believed that any CD being sold in a version billed as "remastered" meant improvement to this degree (though it never has, even remotely, prior to this one), then I would have to get a bank loan and replace my entire CD collection. There! Enthusiastic rant over! Buy this absolute gem!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and intoxicating,
John Martyn's songs are woven into the fabric of my life; no album more so than Solid Air. I was introduced to it back in 1973 when I was fourteen and heavily into Bowie, Pink Floyd and Yes. But Martyn's music was like nothing I had ever heard before. It had a raw intensity and an emotional core running right through it. I was hooked.
He was a gifted guitarist, with a delicate touch and a sparseness that tricked you into believing that he wasn't doing very much. He used his voice as if it were another instrument, with slurred indistinct lyrics where the feelings and emotions seemed more important than the actual words he was singing. I simply got it. It connected. It spoke to me.
Over the years I continued to buy virtually every album that he ever released, but it was always Solid Air that I would go back to, time after time; my late-night album of choice.
Even after thirty-nine years of repeated listening the title track can still make me cry if I'm in the right frame of mind. But it's an album full of other little gems like "Over the Hill", "Go Down Easy" and "Man in the Station". It also has John's "signature" composition, the wonderful "May You Never" which he performed acoustically on The Old Grey Whistle Test, and was what prompted me to buy the album in the first place. But for me none of these surpass the sublime title track.
The Moment DT's bass and those vibes kick in I'm back in 1973 at the age of fourteen, where everything is possible, and the future stretches out in front of you full of limitless possibilities. It also, even after all these years, makes me feel stoned just listening to it.
I guess that's what great music does for you.
John's death affected me greatly. It was no real surprise; he'd lived on the edge for so long that sooner or later he was bound to slip off. His self-destructive path finally led to a point where his luck ran out. But it was a genuine sense of loss, almost as if I'd lost a part of my personal history.
I was fortunate enough to see John live on dozens and dozens of occasions. The first time I saw him was in the mid-seventies about the time of One World. My first proper date with my wife was to see him at the Town and Country Club in Kentish Town back in 1986. With an amazing symmetry the last time I saw him was twenty-two years later when I took our then eighteen-year-old son to see him perform the "Grace and Danger" album at The Barbican in November 2008. By January 2009 he had gone.
He leaves a legacy of stunning music, and Solid Air remains one of his finest hours.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars UNCUT ALBUM REVIEW,
In the sleeve notes to this retooled version of John Martyn's masterpiece, John Hillarby recalls an offstage moment when the singer - a man not in the habit of unpicking his lyrics - was asked to explain what he meant by "solid air". Martyn's answer was jocularly dismissive - something to the effect that the song's meaning was obvious. Which it is, though not in a way that is easily catalogued.
"Solid Air", the song, is known to have been written by Martyn for his friend, Nick Drake, and its verses are couched in style of the period; poetic verging on the mystical. When Martyn was writing this album, in 1972, Drake was an occasional visitor to his home in Hastings, and would, by all accounts, spend much of the time staring hopelessly through the window. Knowing this, and bearing in mind that Drake would commit suicide two years later, you might see solid air as a symbol of an atmospheric heaviness, or suffocation. And it's true, the song supports that interpretation, with Martyn apparently empathising with his friend's behaviour. "Don't know what's going wrong inside," he sings,
"and I can tell you that it's hard to hide when you're living on solid air." Even the notion of solid air is ambiguous - oblivion might more obviously be represented by thin air.
But such a literal approach doesn't really do justice to the song, or the album. Martyn had little time for critics, and their habit of adding biographical flesh to his writing. The business of analysing lyrics, he said more than once, was "a pain in the arse". So while Drake was his inspiration, the lyric goes beyond whatever private meaning Martyn may have ascribed to it. "Solid Air" has its own logic, and can apply to any circumstance in which someone is trying to empathise with the pain of a friend. On another day it could describe the suffering of a lover, struggling to re-connect with a distant partner. Or, if you put aside the words and just listen to the sounds Martyn makes while singing them - something his slurring, humming delivery encourages - what you get is a soothing balm rather than a counsel of despair.
All of which is a roundabout way of recognising that Solid Air marked
the moment when Martyn transcended his influences. He had signed to Island in 1967, as a sweet-voiced singer-songwriter, but quickly evolved beyond the limitations of the genre - disappointing those who'd categorised him as a palliative singer-songwriter in the manner of Cat Stevens.
Not that Solid Air doesn't have its moments of pure loveliness. It includes Martyn's sweetest pop song, "May You Never", a lullaby in which optimism triumphs over every possible cause of the blues. Martyn's philosophy gets its most succinct airing in "Don't Want To Know", a ridiculously infectious peace mantra, in which the singer votes for love over evil. In recent years, some have suggested that the sentiments of this song are somehow locked in the hippy era that spawned them, but the imagery - of crass materialism, and planes falling from the sky - seems more prescient than that.
Around the edges of these songs, Martyn and double bassist Danny Thompson do strange things to the blues. Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman" is wrung out and reborn in a draining improv, "I'd Rather Be The Devil", while elsewhere the band add psych cornicing to a collage of jazz and folk. Their noise is hard to categorise: you might call it soul, though it would be the soul of The Temptations redecorating their Psychedelic Shack while the jazzy neighbours host a yard sale on an autumn afternoon.
Solid Air was recorded in around eight days, so it's hardly surprising that the outtakes don't differ radically from the finished versions. There are a couple of instrumental versions, and the sense of a band exercising their way towards artistic economy. The jams are baggier, the psychedelic flourishes more pronounced; interesting for the aficionado, but ultimately a reminder of the perfection of the originals. More interesting is "Never Say Never" (sometimes called "When It's Dark") - a ruminative ballad that stretches on beautifully for eight minutes, and benefits from a slight roughness in the performance. Then there is "In The Evening"; a gorgeous late-night strum which almost collapses under the weight of its own weariness.
When Martyn died in January, there was much talk of his influence, on Eric Clapton, the Durutti Column, on Portishead. Some suggested he invented trip hop: a harsh thing to say about a man who wasn't around to defend himself. Forget influence. As this serves to remind, Martyn is still among us, and still vital.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best singer songwriter's best album,
This album is a sublime masterpiece. All of the songs have such an unbelieveably relaxing effect upon the listener. The mellowness of John Martyn's superb voice coupled with his talent on guitar and the sheer beauty of his songs make listening to this album an unforgettable experience. The album's title track sets the scene with its mellow "smoky corner of a bar" feel and the dreaminess stays with you throughout. Even the faster songs such as "Over The Hill" and "Dreams by the Sea" gently bring you back from your lethargy temporarily before submerging you again with quiet and reflective tracks like "Man in the Station", "Go Down Easy" and the classic "May You Never." The album is the zenith for a singer who is hewn from the same rock as Nick Drake and the earlier Bob Dylan tracks although he is a more tuneful and melodious singer than both of these. His songwriting here at least is as good as any singer songwriter you care to mention and his voice is as pure and crisp as that of Don McLean.
Listening to the album is a richly rewarding experience and whether you are familiar with it already or new to the genius of it's bittersweet melodies, it has never sounded better than it does in this remastered edition.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whatever your tastes, it's difficult to find fault with this,
This review is from: Solid Air by John Martyn (Audio CD)
Partly a tribute to the late (& great) Nick Drake, partly a demonstration of astonishing musicianship, and partly a purely atmospheric journey, this is, quite simply, a "must have." So many sounds; so many styles; so many voices. Martyn seems as at home chilling out with jazz as he does when he's bouncing with folk. He's probably one of the few people who could ever carry off "May You Never," and just listen to "The Easy Blues" - GODDAMMIT!!!! - the man can PLAY. And sing at that......
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SCOTLANDS NATIONAL TREASURE,
John Martyn is one of Scotland's national treasures,even if we are lazy in acknowledging it.There's more to this wonderful record than just background music for late nights or dinner parties. It has immense emotional depth and equal amounts of anger, longing and joy. A melancholic masterpiece, belongs with Joni Mitchell's Blue, Neil Youngs On the Beach, the Beach Boys Pet Sounds, and Nick Drakes Bryter Later, (to whom the song Solid Air is for).
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Luscious, subtle, intoxicating.,
If you ever find yourself either alone or as part of a small, late-night, intimate gathering of friends, the kind where you can have lulls in conversation and not feel uncomfortable, I would recommend this CD.
Its power is derived from the relaxed interplay between Martyn's soothing vocal, his crisp guitar sound and Danny Thompson's superbly lazy bass. Add some touches of percussion (just enough to add a sense of direction, and you have a beautiful, laid-back and thoughtful album.
I've bought other John Martyn albums since I first heard this, but I haven't given as many copies away.
A perfect nocturnal soundtrack.
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