11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2011
Heaven and Earth is a labour of love assembled by his band and his mates after John Martyn's untimely death; there may be elements the great man might have scorned - perhaps the wonderful sharp slick backing singers - but the result is a treat, and an album we hadn't been expecting. Throughout his career John had an artist's habit of taking you somewhere new and uncomfortable where he had ventured while you were getting used to his last work, and in time you caught up and understood his point, but by then he had move on! However this album takes us to a place to which you can relate pretty quickly - either that or I've been brainwashed after all these years...Jazz, blues, rock, humour, strength, vulnerability, pathos, the kitchen door and the dog - it's all here, emitted from John's home in Ireland and polished in studios all over the world. More for your personal stereo or late at night than a selection of party favourites, there are strong and varied tracks throughout and you feel the musicians gave their all - and a little more just for John - willingly. John tuning up or in bad form was always better than most, and this is not a sloppy excuse for a record but a real work to enjoy. Wherever Buddhists go, we hope John is happy. Is there a first time John Martyn buyer? You could start here and work backwards. If already a fan, you shouldn't be disappointed, far from it.Heaven and Earth
73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2011
John's final and farewell album arrived this morning and I have listened with the mixed emotion of love and loss inevitable in hearing his last recording. I wasn't expecting to find Martyn at his best but instead to hear him finish with enough echo from a distinguished musical past and the growl and guffaw of his enduring if at times disturbing character and personality.
It's all there. The musical echo is in the funk and groove of most songs that reflect the thread of his latter recordings, and 'Heaven and Earth' and 'Can't Turn Back the Years' reflect the other songcraft of earlier work, the second through, interestingly, the empathetic songwriting of his great friend Phil Collins.
The album begins powerfully with the gruff Martyn vocal strong in the mix and that's the authority you want to hear. Indeed, the opening two tracks 'Heel of the Hunt' and 'Stand Amazed' have the loud and laughing funkgroove one has come to expect from him in his latter recording years as well as live performances.
'Heaven and Earth' doesn't have the memorable strength of earlier work but it allows Martyn's voice to slide and slur and giggle along the simple melody with its declaration of love that does recall so many of his powerful romantic declarations: 'I'll move heaven and earth just to be with you' and the sax slurs its groove too.
Phil Collins may be a plonker politically but he has been a close and dear friend of Martyn and made sustained musical contributions to John's work over the years, most notably on 'Grace and Danger'. His song 'Can't Turn Back the Years' is the most Matrynesque on the album and I believe this must be a genuine reflection of the empathy he has for John both musically and as a person.
The album ends ironically with 'Willing to Work' with John's spoken, partly inarticulate intro and opening scat line 'woopee do.......I'm willing to work' and the groove core is a fitting manifesto for his unique career.
If you are not a fan this isn't the album to purchase to represent John at his best; if you are, this is compulsive and joyous and celebratory because genius endures as a whole and this is a glorious part of that.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2011
I'm a long term JM fan, discovering him at 18 and listening to his work for the 26 years which have passed since. I was surprised he lasted as long as he did, but its still a huge loss that he is no longer with us. And great news...this last album is a cracker. I'm sitting listening to it online, tapping my foot, loving every moment, and filling up with tears. Not everything John has done has either been as good as it should have been, or could have been, so I was worried that what we might have here were fragments and work in progress, and it would be a disappointing legacy to set alongside the jewels in his back catalogue.
But, you know, this sounds great. The vibe is joyous, funky even. His friends have clearly worked to make sure this last album is a fitting legacy to a tremendous musician. Over-produced? Not to me - actually its got the love and attention that many of his previous albums deserved but never got. Having listened to it once through I just want to play it straight through again - not out of nostalgia or mourning, but because its great album that makes me feel good and reaches straight into my soul, where all good music gets to.
I've no idea whether this will win any new converts (after all if you've not got it by now with all the other wonderful stuff he's put out, you really are beyond musical redemption) but this is a joyful last opus for those of us who love his music. Rock on, John - its just a pity you're not here to play this stuff live for Jools Holland - because this sounds like some of the best stuff you've ever done.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2011
This album,is a fantastic final effort,from John,when you consider he was nearing the end of an illustrious career.He still had the musical accumen and respect,to employ Phil Collins,and a whole host of great session musicians,particularly Martin Winning,whose sax playing,is a joy to behold,breath and reed,clearly audible on Heaven and Earth...love it mate!!!
The recording,is a lovely mix of Jazz,Blues,and Funk,as only John,knew how to cook up,and comparisons,to "And",from 1996,are definitly there,for all to hear.
What a winner,from the great man..!!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2011
Throughout his carreer John Martyn proved that you do not have to sell your life to the company boss,and that integrity still stands for something in this 15 minutes of fame,X factor life that we live in today,in his latter years John made some really good albums "Glasgow walker""On the cobbles""Cooltide" which showed a certain moving away into a more jazzy field,
this is easily equall to them,the Glasgow soul is still there with its relentless funk backing,many tracks on this album would have been great live favourites had he survived in particular "Heel of the hunt""Stand amazed"
"Heaven and earth"and the magnificent"Willing to work"
So all things considered a sad record,saved by the fact it celebrates the giant talent that John was.
Congratulations must go to the record company for not cashing in on his death by not issuing another shoddy compilation.
11 of 13 people found the following review 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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2011
Any posthumous new material from the much missed Big Man is welcome and, as such, I'm pleased I bought it immediately.
In a way this work reminds me of the lesser-known Church With One Bell.
Not a bad production, but I agree with some of the other reviewer comments that Martyn's sometimes gravelly, sometimes melancholic heart-wrenching voice (still there) is somewhat over shadowed by too foreward and contrived percussion, occasionally irritating backing vocals, and somewhat sugary sax solos.
But the Big Man still shines through and raises a smile and a tear.
If you are new to Martyn, then please buy The Island Anthology first - then knock yourself out by buying everything else!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2011
C'mon all you sort-of-John-Martyn-fans out there. You know you've toyed with the idea of getting your hands on his last outing. Well, go on then. You've nothing to fear. It's not up there with Solid Air or One World, but it's pretty blinking good never-the-less. The voice is beyond mellow. The music self-assured - a journeyman knocking out tunes to stop you, scare you and make you smile - sometimes all at the same time. Two weeks in and my stand out songs are 'Could have told you...' and 'Willing to Work' - the closing seconds of the latter being further proof, if needed, that he never took any of it too seriously. One of a kind and sorely missed. God speed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2011
As an avid John Martyn Fan of 20 plus years and a large John Martyn album collection, this is by far one of his best.
As some of you may know John very sadly passed away Jan 09, so this is his very last album.
This album is as always a mixture of styles, from jazz folk, to a hint of rock.
The musicians that John used on the collaboration are guys and gals that have worked with john over the years, such as Spencer Cozens, Alan Thomson, Arrun Ahmun to name but a few.
John's music for me is great music lifting your mood evrytime, whether in the car at home or work, so if you have'nt yet purchased Heaven and Earth then don't hesitate, well worth the money !
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
The album John Martyn was recording before he died, the 9 tracks represent a fitting finale to the carrier to one of the UKs great and underrated singer song writers (OK Phil Collins wrote one of the songs but we won't hold that against him).
As with much of John Martyn's later carrier this album is electric rather than the acoustic guitar of his early years, so don't expect a `Bless the weather' or `Solid Air' album, this is more like `Cooltide' or `The Apprentice'. The music is full of the passion that John Martyn had and has a certain gravitas which comes with a man who is coming to terms with the shortness of life, and is somewhat of a celebration of life.
There are some great musical interludes 'Heaven and Earth' for instance has a sax solo so laid back it's almost horizontal. No song on the album outstays its welcome. This album is not cheap cash in but very much a fitting epitaph. Rest in Peace John Martyn.