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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Soulful John, 14 Jun 2013
BOF "best bones. B.O.F." (Them There Hills - Northern Monkey) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sapphire (Audio CD)
Sapphire (1884) - John, who at this time in his career hardly played the acoustic guitar/folk sound in favour of a glossy pop/rock sound. Not one for people who want a lot of John's guitar playing.
Recorded at Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas and CaVa Sound Workshops, Glasgow, Scotland, the album released by Island, ILPS 9779, with cover photography by Anton Corbijn and a cover illustration by Cathie Felstead.

I don't know who was going to produce this originally but after arguments John self-produced it ably assisted in the later stages of the recording by Robert Palmer. Comment from John at the time"Actually it almost didn't happen, the production team had all fallen out, no-one was taking responsibility for anything, too much rum was being consumed all over the place, so I got Robert Palmer in who brought in some other excellent musicians, and that was was all down to Robert in the end".

John Martyn - guitars, vocals, Linn drums, Barry Reynolds - guitar, Alan Thomson - bass guitar, keyboards, Linn drums, Jack Waldman - keyboards, Jim Prime - keyboards, Robin Rankin - keyboards, James Hooker - keyboards, Steven Stanley - Linn Drums, Andy Lyden - Linn drums, Uziah "Sticky" Thompson - percussion, Colin Tully - saxophones, Morwenne Laidlaw - harmonies, Terry Nelson - harmonies, Lorna Brooks - harmonies.

As seen from the above line-up, Linn Drums & keyboards aplenty with the guitars being 'treated' only the saxophone ends up being 'organic'. A well put together, well played wall of sound from the band with John's strong singing holding it all together and stopping it sliding into 'Muzak'. You can obviously hear the Robert Palmer influences in the music if you are au fait with his albums.

1 Sapphire (J. Martyn) - great chugging opener, then John joins in with a great vocal and his lyrics once again about lost love. Classic song.

2 Over The Rainbow (H. Arlen, C. Harburg)- not a song I'm over fond of (done by anybody) I suppose John makes as good as fist of it as anyone, being melancholic & wistful.

3 You Know (J. Martyn) - another of John's love songs but a more positive (R. Palmer could have covered this easily)
'Every day I see your face

It makes this world a better place for me to be

A better place for me to be
And every time I touch your hand

My troubles fade like grains of sand, and trickle away'.

4 Watching Her Eyes (J. Martyn) - opening verse

'Women know protraction

As they cut it into sections

She's just splitting

All throughout the crazy action

Counting every fraction every bird that flies'.

Now how many songs do you know with 'protraction' in?

5 Fisherman's Dream (J. Martyn) - beautiful dreamy song once again sung as only John could, another classic song one of my all time favourites, one to chill to of an evening.

6 Acid Rain (J. Martyn, A. Thomson) - Funky opening metronomic drumbeat,treated guitars/keyboards odd bits of percussion then John's away with another terrific vocal, an ecology song? Or a disguised lost love song? I'm never sure with John.

7 Mad Dog Days (J. Martyn, A. Thomson) - One of my favourite songs from the album, what's it about? Is it a love affair gone wrong or is it about Mrs Thatcher? You decide.

8 Climb The Walls (J. Martyn) - the tune wouldn't be out of place on a Palmer album but the vocal is pure John

9 Coming On Time (J. Martyn) - 'Said she's coming in on the high tide

She's a healer, she can see

She's the sapphire

I know she left when I was a baby

But she never let me down

Shes coming back to take me away
Shes coming in on time...'

10 Rope-Soul'd (J. Martyn, A. Thomson, B. Reynolds) - brooding moody piece to close the album with another of John's mighty vocals, I would say that that was what John was concentrating on on this album at the expense of his guitar work.

So 'Sapphire', 'Fisherman's Dream', Mad Dogs Days' & Rope-Soul'd are classic songs to join John's canon of work, the rest filler? maybe but John's filler is normally 10 times better than most artistes best work.

Other albums from the 80's I mean to review in the next year are Glorious Fool (1981), Well Kept Secret (1982), The Electric John Martyn (1982), Philentropy (1983)(live) & Foundations (1987)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the acoustic die-hards, but definitely one for those who love John's later work..., 1 April 2013
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This review is from: Sapphire (MP3 Download)
Let me start by saying I am a fully signed-up John Martyn fan, having seen him live over 30 times from the early 80s, up to the final gig a few weeks before his death - hence this review is somewhat biased. I like virtually everything he's done. If you are a more casual fan, this may not be for you.

Many of John Martyn fans bemoan his abandonment of the acoustic (and to some extent even the electric guitar) in his later work, as he made greater use of synths and drum machines. This album is clearly a product of the 80s; lots of Linn Drum, lots of very digital sounding keyboards, etc. But it also has what all great John Martyn albums have; wonderful songs, sung by that beautiful voice...

The title track, Fisherman's Dream, Mad Dog Days and Coming in on Time all rank among his best.

If you are a fan of his whole career and find yourself able to enjoy John's work after he ceased to be primarily an acoustic artist, the highlights of Sapphire shine very brightly indeed.
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