Top critical review
11 people found this helpful
on 20 May 2011
As a long time fan and knowing this posthumous final album was never going to be the finished article that John Martyn would have made it, I awaited its arrival with mingled excitement,anticipation and trepidation. And now I've had a chance to listen a few times I can say it's not bad. In parts it's very good...but it just never rises to the sublime heights we've come to expect from a John Martyn album.
In tone it's closest to Cooltide(1991!) a smooth, jazzy vibe with what sounds like some extended jamming going on in the background. But as it stands, it lacks the standout tracks and the precision of the production on that album. It's fairly even paced and even toned throughout. But it lacks the clarity and precision and fine judgement that is a hallmark of all JM's best work. That lets it down for me.
It's all a little too even paced and over produced to the point of occasional mushiness for me. At times it also has the feel of Glorious Fool, an album of good songs largely let down by over-production. The backing singers are particularly obtrusive on Stand Amazed and Bad Company but add little in either case. Could've Told You Before I Met You is almost destoyed by the metronomic drums fighting agaisnt the more sinuous vocal. Stripping out some of the drums and backing vocals might have given a cleaner "John Martyn sound" overall.In fact several times one is reminded of ealrier works (Heel of the Hunt has a touch of "John Wayne" I stand Amazed echoes My Creator to my ear etc)but these songs, as rendered here, mostly lose out in the comparison.
It must have been a difficult task to put this album together without JM and thanks are due to those who took it on. But, had he lived I think some of these tracks might have been reworked, certainly revoiced. John's voice is in very good from throughout,but again some of the recording and/or production seems a little indistinct or distanced.
I don't want to sound too negative. If this was from anyone else it would probably be seen as a fine album: the songs are good, the playing is good, it's lyrically complex and satisfying but it just doesn't all come together to reach the heights the Big Man reached so many times before, and which we, perhaps unfairly, came to expect. That said, there are no "bad" tracks and it will bear repeated listening by all JM fans. Sadly, as his final musical testament it just doesn't really come close to his best work.