67 of 67 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
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clearly an acquired taste!
I bought this CD as part of an initiative to broaden my musical horizons. I was heavily influenced by the consistently high reviews on this page to sample the artist and album. However, despite trying to be open minded, I do not get what is so wonderful about John Martyn or this specific album. To me John Martyn's voice seems to drone on, and, the guitar strings twang in...
Published on 15 Feb 2012 by Paul Madge
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67 of 67 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 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.
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another John Martyn Deluxe Edition - Possibly The Best,
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.
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How did I miss this for so long.,
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.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply outstanding,
By A Customer
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!
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An album worthy of any collection,
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!
16 of 16 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!
13 of 13 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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most mellow albums ever,
By A Customer
This review is from: Solid Air by John Martyn (Audio CD)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Soothing,
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.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...I'm Going Home...Over The Hill..." - Solid Air by JOHN MARTYN (Deluxe Edition 2CD Remaster),
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.
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