29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2005
Like any 'definitive' collection this one most decidedly isn't, in fact it's something of a ragbag - BUT it is most certainly excellent and while not the last word on Martin's career to date is a pretty good inroduction to what he does. There is a fine range of material here, all of it - bar the stomping 'Lakes of Ponchartrain' showcasing his quite remarkable ability as a guitarist (and occasionally banjo player). His voice is a more variable instrument veering between the rich and effective to the annoyingly whiney but even when the latter is the case his magnificent guitar playing more than compensates. It's the instrumentals, however, that really stand out, 'First Cut Is the Deepest' and 'Plains of Waterloo/James Connolly' in particular, though the songs 'Shawnee Town' and 'One More Day/Boots of Spanish Leather' are fine performances. Just occasionally his arrangements slip into the over-fussy ( the introduction to 'Clerk Sanders' for example ) but we can forgive him a few small lapses for such overall excellence. Highly recommended and only misses the five stars since I ( and probably most other fans ) would quibble about some of the items included here on a so-called definitive collection.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
No "definitive" collection can be definitive but this is a fine record.
I came across Martin Simpson because he was doing a gig in a very small venue in Camden Town (near where I was living at the time), shortly after the 'Prodigal Son' album came out. Live in an intimate setting, he was captivating, and humble enough to talk to me afterwards a little.
He's in touch with where he began: he's from Lincolnshire, and that's very much part of him, as are his songs about his father. But his imagination is large - his instrumental rendition of 'James Connolly' (that's the Irish labour leader strapped wounded to a chair and executed after the 1916 uprising in Ireland) is poignant.
I'm told by people who understand these things he's a brilliant guitarist. He's also a great ballad singer.
If you already have a pile of Martin Simpson records, you won't have learned much from my review, and you may well also already have all the tracks on this compilation.
If you are new to Martin Simpson, buy it. The worst that can happen is that, once you've heard it, you buy all the other records. Surely one of the greatest English singers of our time.
on 12 November 2014
A lot of these reviews don't seem to have twigged that this is not in any sense a comprehensive best-of; it's actually drawn from just three albums Simpson recorded for Topic in the 80s. Nowadays he is Mr 'Full English', but what you have here is overwhelmingly American-influenced music whether it's blues, bluegrass, Dylan, Dixieland jazz or whatever. That does contribute to a degree of uncertainty, a lack of focus - which Simpson acknowledges in referring to the albums as 'scrapbooks'. He had yet to find his own voice; and the only British tune here is Keel Row, which for some reason he does as a reggae. It seems only logical that, after the third album, he upped sticks and moved to the US of States (apparently he's back now, and living in Sheffield).
But he's a superb guitarist, decent banjo player, and also a good singer - though certainly not, as someone says, 'one of the greatest' - and there are some fantastic tracks here. At times it reminds me of early Ry Cooder, and that's not a bad thing to have said about you. The quality and particularly the production declines noticeably for the third album - but that was the 80s for you.
on 9 April 2014
So strange to have come so far and not been exposed to Martin Simpson. Travelled the country and folk roads that connected at least two Continents, and with a tumbler full of jazz and blues. His guitar paying is magical and while I may have heard individual singers with stronger presence, his voice grows and wheedles its way into ones conscience.