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Johnny Too Good...,
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This review is from: Grace & Danger (Deluxe) (MP3 Download)
I'm not one for re-issues as a rule; if you own the original issue of an album that you consider a personal favourite then buying something that contains a few songs that didn't quite make it/demos/jams/ remixes/live performances that you've not heard previously then a little bit of magic and mystery can be lost when you hear the inspiration behind the finished product.
That said, Grace and Danger was radical as it involved the transformation of a beardy folk singer into a beardy blue-eyed soul superstar (albeit briefly) aided and abetted by Phil Collins before he achieved his own solo success. Given this huge leap into the mainstream for John Martyn, the Deluxe Edition captures this genesis (no pun intended) as the live and demo versions contrast to the polish of the edited versions of tracks that made it to the album.
The recordings of tracks that didn't make it to the original also add value to this collection, none more so than the mighty Running Up The Harbour, a jam that sounds a bit like Sweet Little Mystery speeded up with just one verse and a chorus for lyrics (Martyn pads out his vocals with a bit of Scat and some improvised gibberish and word-association). I guess that this track remained unfinished as the feel-good vibe of this song was not conducive to the permeating sorrow that defines the album. That seems a shame, but the rough-cut version preserved for this re-issue is perhaps more of a delight through its incompleteness.
This was an impulse buy on my part due to the death of the portable hard-drive that once held my music collection, so in my impatience I bought the MP3 version not realising that there were live tracks on what would be the first disc of this 2 disc set. Usually the split second gap between tracks that are either live or mixed together can prove fatal, yet luckily the gap is less noticeable as the live set (originally broadcast on BBC TV's Rock Goes to College series) was edited to squeeze in the music so the gaps in the live soundtrack synch well enough to the MP3 gaps. As a result, you don't miss a beat of any of the live tracks.
So in either format, this is a highly recommended purchase, capturing a vastly underrated artist at the peak of his powers. If you know Martyn's work, this will enlighten you. If you don't, this should seduce you.