43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2009
Concensus of opinion is that 'Solid Air' is John Martyn's best album and having delivered deluxe editions of 'Grace and Danger' and 'One World' it is a natural move to issue a deluxe edition of 'Solid Air'.
I think that many artists legacy are detrimentally treated by poorly put together releases but John has been very lucky to have John Hillarby to look after his legacy, and he did a particulary good job on 'Ain't No Saint' and with this deluxe edition he has repeated his great achievement by adding a great set of studio outtakes and live performances that provide a great understanding of John's musical ability and his great live performances.
CD 1 is basically the remastered album from 1973 but the goldmine for John's fans is CD 2 which has 12 alternate takes, all unreleased,three live cuts 'Easy Blues',' May You Never' and 'I'd Rather Be The Devil (Devil Got My Woman) and the original vinyl single release of 'May You Never'.
Rather than repeating some of the other deluxe editions in having multiple versions of the same tracks, Hillarby has put together the 'Solid Air' album using alternate versions which could just as easily have been a succesful album on its own, and every track is very different from the originally released version, though John's great musicianship and vocals are evident throughout this alternate version of the album.
In my opinion this deluxe version has been put together with great thought and its a quality product and its well worthwhile buying, even if you have the original album. It is a fitting tribute to the artist who sadly passed away in January 2009 and is probably the best deluxe John Martyn release.
72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
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 experimentation leads to a constant tension that suffuses the album. The mood swings from dark and brooding to loving and hopeful. But more than anything else about the album is the magic of having the right people in the right place at the right time to make something that cannot be beaten. This is very possibly the greatest album ever recorded. Sit down with a glass of wine, switch off the phone and let it all wash over you.
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on 3 January 2001
from first hearing this majestic album at an old friends house on a late saturday night i have been truly knocked out by its beauty, the album starts off with solid air, a pure smooth, laid back "smoking" tune and gets you in the mood for whats to come, the chill out feel is defintly in the air, you can even smell the peat roasting in the fire. this album is for those who truly understand and appreciate a fantastic album. this should go down as one of the best albums of all time. this album will truly knock you out, even if you have never heard of john martyn before buy this album and it will change your life!
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
No accident that this album and two of the songs on it are up there with the favourites voted for by the great man's fans on his website! His musical appeal remains elusive - impossible to pin down to any genre, but at times quite hypnotic and entrancing in its beauty. The folk roots are evident, but Martyn weaves layers of jazz, blues, country, rock and pop fluently within his music.
The jazzy flavour is exploited superbly in the title track, a dreamy, evocative number and dripping in slinky vibes, sumptuous sax chords and slurred, smoky vocals. That description doesn't do the song justice - it's a masterpiece worthy of comparison with Van Morrison's Moondance, for example.
The quality of Solid Air (the song) runs through Solid Air (the album) like a coal seam. The mood shifts, including amiable numbers like May You Never and an aggressive live rendition of I'd Rather Be The Devil that completes the album with aplomb, but the sound remains subtly eliptical throughout, retaining its freshness 30 years on.
An album worthy of any collection. Magnificent!
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2004
I am a convert to John Martyn as a result of seeing the recent documentary aired on BBC2. This album is simply superb, the music is well produced, the performances are excellent, and the songs are simply beautiful. This is also highly original; its quite unlike anything else in my music collection; highly recommended.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
John Martyn's 6th album for the mighty Island Records - the lovely and ethereal "Solid Air" - was always going to be a candidate for the 2CD DELUXE EDITION treatment at some point in time - but few of us could have hoped it would turn out 'this' good. I'm blown away - I really am. But details first...
Disc 1 (34:49 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 9 are the LP "Solid Air" issued 1 February 1973 on Island ILPS 9226 in the UK and Island SW-9325 in the USA (it didn't chart in either country). It was recorded in November and December of 1972 and engineered by JOHN WOOD. The original album had a gatefold sleeve and a famously designed 'hand through air' shot on the front cover by FABIO NICOLI. The gatefold digipak recreates this artwork inside and out, has 'palm-tree' label CDs to reflect the original LP design and a 20-page booklet with passionate, informative and detailed liner notes by noted experts and friends JOHN HILLARBY and DARYL EASLEA. The booklet also features trade adverts, the master tapes box, lyrics to the songs, session details - it's superbly done. But the real fireworks lie in the SOUND of the album on Disc 1 - and I'm thrilled to say - the staggering quality of the EXTRAS on Disc 2...
The 24-bit digital remaster has been done by PASCHAL BYRNE at Audio Archiving in London and he's done a STUNNING job. Every track sounds alive, warm and in your face - but in a good way. Highlights include the truly gorgeous "Over The Hill" which has Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol of Fairport Convention playing an absolute blinder on Mandolin and Autoharp (respectively) - and every time - and I mean every time - it wells up a tear in my eye. Now it suddenly sounds HUGE, Byrne's remaster having brought its beauty out - a genuine wow if ever there was one.
While others love it - I've never liked his echo-plexed version of Skip James blues tune "Devil Got My Woman" which he renamed "I'd Rather Be The Devil". But if you do like it - you're in for a treat, because it sounds absolutely enormous here - I just always felt is was kind of out of place in a largely folky setting.
There is hiss at the beginning of Side 2's lovely opener "Go Down Easy", but Byrne's smartly not tried to process it out of the transfer - the result is that Danny Thompson's double-bass sounds like he is standing in the corner of your room. Tony Cox's fantastic sax work on the funky "Dreams By The Sea" is complimented by John "Rabbit" Bundrick's fabulous keyboard work - again astonishingly clear. The final three tracks still sound years ahead of their ambient time - and the remaster is beautiful too...
After the joy of Disc 1, I'd expected Disc 2 to be a let down - it isn't.
Disc 2 (80:22 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 9 are fully formed 'alternate' takes of all 9 album tracks
Tracks 10 to 12 are 3 brand-new out-takes from the album sessions - "Keep On", "When It's Dark" and "In The Evening"
Track 13 is the 1st version of "May You Never" issued as 7" single in the UK on Island WIP 6116 in November 1971 - it's an entirely different version to the 'acoustic take' released on the "Solid Air" album (the song was famously covered by Eric Clapton on his "Slowhand" album of 1977). The 1971 single mix contains a full band with keyboards by John "Rabbit" Bundrick and guitar work by Paul Kossoff of Free
Tracks 14 to 16 are Live Versions of "The Easy Blues", "May You Never" and "I'd Rather Be The Devil" (no venue details are supplied)
The 'Alternate' takes are all lovely and something you'll play again rather treat as a curio. But then you're hit with a genuine sensation - 3 Session out-takes never heard before - one of which is a showstopper - the eight and a half minute acoustic bliss of "When It's Dark". I played it in the shop the other day and two Euro customers came to the counter within minutes asking after the new "Nick Drake" recording! Fans will wonder how this peach has remained in the vaults all these years.
So there you have it - a great album beautifully transferred and extra tracks that actually deserve the word 'bonus'. I've enjoyed some superb issues in the Deluxe Edition series in the last few years (Whiskeytown's "Strangers Almanac", "Tighten Up" Volumes 1 and 2 and Free's "Fire And Water" - see reviews), but this is something really special.
Buy it with confidence - and Rest in Peace you great big gorgeous Scottish beauty.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2007
From the lilting, drowsy title track, through the smoky jazz of Go Down Easy, through the mellow West Coast vibe of May You Never (covered by Clapton on Slowhand) to the soulful pop of Man In The Station (revisited by Ian Matthews on his brilliant Stealin' Home album in 1978), Martyn addresses almost every musical genre with ease and accomplishment. In the hands of a less able musician/songwriter, it could have been a directionless mess but Martyn gathered great musicians around him and wove this seamless blend of glorious music. There's country, soul, pop, jazz, blues and some digestible rock in these 40 minutes. It's perfect for late night listening and equally perfect for bowling along the motorway at 70mph.
Every track has a mesmerizing quality to it. Just think of this: I'd Rather Be The Devil is delivered with a growly blues vocal over a thumping riff. Take away the vocals and, amazingly, the music that remains could be the soundtrack to a Sci-Fi movie. That's how brilliant he was.. and he was only 25.
Few albums are truly essential; let's allow Revolver, Let It Bleed, Ziggy Stardust, The Kick Inside etc as albums that demand attention by simply being so different and assertive. Add Solid Air to the list now.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 19 December 1999
This is truely a wonderful collection of Martyn's work. It contains the beautiful title track and the wonderous 'Over the hill' and absolutely funky babe 'Dreams by the Sea'. May you never was even covered by Eric Clapton. Martyn's playing on the bluey 'Easy Blues' has to be heard to be believed. If you like Nick Drake's music then you'll love this as much of the work either uses tunings e.g. drop D that Drake used or is infact about Drake i.e. Solid Air. The other album worth purchasing is Bless the Weather as it contains almost total acoustic guitar unlike here where effects on the electric were creeping in. Enjoy.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2003
I first came across John Martyn through the wonderful 'Glory Box' and after further investigation came across this amazing compilation.
The deep yet soothing voice of Martyn is beautifully accompanied by a wonderful slow and sombre base and the perfect addition of gentle percussion.
This is a CD to listen to on a winding down occasion, a soothing cure for the stresses of modern day.
I thoroughly enjoy listening to this CD and will never grow tired of it.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2009
This is how these deluxe re-issues should be done. The second disc has the same running order as the original album, so if you know the original like the back of your hand, it makes for intriguing listening.
Highlights include the alternate take of I'd Rather Be the Devil. Obviously recorded earlier than the finished song it offers you a real insight into the way these songs developed in the studio.
John sings it in a higher key, but the remarkable thing is his phrasing, which is immaculate. I'd always thought it would take endless takes to find the perfect way to get 'behind' the vocal the way he does, but on the evidence of this track he was a very natural singer. This is highlighted further by the guitar motif which - along with the drums - underpins and lends the finished song its drama.
In this take it feels almost entirely absent, becoming more prominent only towards the end, indicating how the arrangement was changed fairly dramatically while the song evolved, but the vocal remained almost unchanged. This is one of many insights the second disc of this re-issue has to offer.
If you've never heard the original album before then.. lucky you! The first disc is one of the very best albums you will ever buy, and I think that holds true regardless of any genre of music you're into. Solid Air really is one of those gems, it'll sweep you up and never really put you down again. If you don't own it then buy it, every song on the record should be there, every one with its own vibe, one minute you'll be regretting how many times you've missed listening to such a beautiful tune (Solid Air, Go Down Easy) the next you'll be open-mouthed about just how funky 'folk' can get (Dreams By the Sea, I'd rather Be the Devil). It's a trip!
Congratulations to John Hillarby, who couldn't have done a better job, and congratulations to John Martyn, for the ability to articulate his undoubted genius.