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John Martyn - A fine tribute to Big Muff,
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This review is from: Johnny Boy Would Love This...A Tribute To John Martyn (Audio CD)
This is a tricky one. It is difficult to point to "tribute" albums that really do the deceased artists they honour the justice they deserve. Furthermore in the case of a singer songwriter quite as loved and revered as the late great John Martyn there are many of his songs which seem utterly pointless covering since his sheer emotional uniqueness and honesty was peerless, plus let us never forget quite how brilliant a musician he was. Frankly what can others add to classics like "Solid air", "Small hours", "Go down easy" or the gorgeous painful honesty of "Grace and Danger" songs like "Hurt in your heart" is debatable particularly bearing in mind the sheer variety of artists covering 30 of his best known songs.
For starters why anyone thought giving one of John's most subtly beautiful songs namely "One World" to the wretched Paolo Nutini to perform some sort of reggae atrocity seriously requires a full scale public enquiry where the perpetrator should be hunted down with dogs. More respectfully Snow Patrol give "May you never" a decent if ultimately overblown "X Factor" makeover that actually could be a massive hit but by the end this reviewer longed to hear the gentle guitar slapping acoustics of Big Muff. Similarly while Ted Barnes and the Emperors of Wyoming do very good versions of "Over the hill" and "Bless the Weather" you couldn't consider them in the same league as the originals. Robert Smith alternatively does a very atmospheric version of the stunning "Small hours" and strangely his "Cure" voice does suit the song, likewise Beck's version of "Stormbringer" is spot on.
Overall however it's the women singers who come out of this exercise with all the honours which would no doubt be the way that John would have wanted it to be. Thus Lisa Hannigan does a harder almost brooding Celtic version of "Couldn't love you more" which shows how to take another artists material and do something great and original with it. Roll on her second album. On "Hurt in your heart" Judie Tzuke plays it straight but its lovely all the same, ditto the soft jazzy version of "Certain surprise" by Irish newcomer Sabrina Dinan. If there is a surprise package then its Vashti Bunyan's fragile version of "Head & heart" is a true wonder and a massive highlight. Unsurprisingly as the resident vocalist of trip-hop group Morcheeba, Skye Edwards' gives "Solid Air" an almost Massive Attack brooding soulful treatment which to be fair works and well done to her for attempting the impossible. Finally in this same vein Beth Orten again shows what a neglected talent she is and if her sumptuous version of "Go down easy" directs music lovers to her Central Reservation LP then this album is worth the price of entry.
Finally respect goes to Nick McCabe and Simon Jones new project "The Blackships" which they formed since the demise of the Verve and their cover of seven minute plus "Rope Soul'd" gives it even more menacing intensity than the original. The album ends with Phil Collins singing "Tearing and Breaking'. If only for the huge support and friendship he gave John Martyn throughout his colourful and eventful life for once Collins presence is not only entirely appropriate but absolutely essential. Overall then the good easily outweighs the bad on this solid and often innovative tribute album. John Martyn was by any standards completely unique and incomparable. You name it and this Scottish singer could do it all whether folk, jazz, chillout or rock n roll and far batter than many of his more commercially popular contemporaries. You can only hope that this worthy and extensive tribute album also leads to the real thing for "Johnny would love this" makes you realize the scale of the musical gap that the musical giant John Martyn left as he passed this world. If it does lead to further exploration of his many stunning albums please heed the warning on Big Muffs' website since prolonged listening to the great man will "irreversibly change the musical wiring inside your brain".
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Aug 2011 19:04:00 BDT
Mark Hart says:
Brilliant review - could not agree with you more on the Paolo Nutini track, and am surprised you stopped short on a pack of hunting dogs! MH
In reply to an earlier post on 16 Aug 2011 20:12:26 BDT
Thank you Mj Cm Hart for your kind comments and for also not pointing out the silly errors in the last paragraph in this review which are awaiting alteration through Amazons rather slow correcting process. I must admit when writing this I raised more than a glass or two to John Martyn and as a result published a draft. Im sure he will forgive me! Cheers R o B
Posted on 19 Aug 2011 16:30:28 BDT
I just wanted to second that - really helpful review, thanks. And couldn't agree more about how fine an artist John Martyn was.
In reply to an earlier post on 20 Aug 2011 19:05:41 BDT
Knocked out thanks for the comment. Like you i think Big John was on of the best and this tribute album does him real justice. Cheers R o B
Posted on 21 Aug 2011 13:36:30 BDT
ADRIAN C KIDD says:
This guy knows his stuff,although im about to buy this album,I already appreciate what he says and expect i will feel the same about it, but if it keeps the big mans name in the fore front of the public attention then im going for it,!, Nice to hear a real enthusiasts opinion, thank you.
In reply to an earlier post on 31 Aug 2011 07:45:02 BDT
Thank you for the kind comment Adrian . I hope you enjoy the album. Regards RoB
Posted on 17 Dec 2011 17:47:37 GMT
Are you aware that the term "Big Muff" refers to a guitar effects pedal and was not John Martyn's nickname?
In reply to an earlier post on 6 Apr 2012 09:31:35 BDT
i allways wanted to know what 'big muff' was,did'nt think it was a nickname,thought it was 'muff' winwood ~~steve's brother~~~~played with JM somewhere ,,cheers ........... tim............
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