Born 11 September 1948 in Surrey, England, but raised in Glasgow, Scotland from an early age, the 18-year old IAIN DAVID McGEACHY finally made his way down to London in the summer of 1967. He busked during the day, slept in Trafalgar Square at night, got moved on by the fuzz in the morning and generally got by on a wing and a prayer. Prompted by his first agent, Sandy Glennon, and based on his love for their Acoustic guitars, he then dropped the `i' in MARTIN and replaced it with a far cooler `y' - wisely becoming JOHN MARTYN.
Then propositioned in a UK folk bar in Kingston, Surrey by producer THEO JOHNSON, he was brought to the attention of independent label genius CHRIS BLACKWELL. Chris took the equally wise decision to sign the curly haired troubadour to his wonderful record label, Island Records, (his first white artist signing) and in October 1967 released the mono only ILP 952 (produced by Theo Johnson). It was Martyn's quietly lovely debut album "London Conversation". Recorded for a frankly exorbitant £158 in Pye Studios in Marble Arch, and still only a pimply 19, JOHN MARTYN was quite rightly hailed by the press and the public as a major new talent.
Some 14 studio albums later - and especially after the relative failure of the well received but commercially underachieving "Piece By Piece" from 1986 - folks at Island Records were in a different mood. His new recordings left them unimpressed and him without a record label. After a few years in the wilderness, Martyn then signed to the relatively new Permanent Records in the UK and in March 1990 released "The Apprentice" on Permanent Records PERM 1. And that's where this remaster comes in.
"The Apprentice" is not a great John Martyn album, it's a good one - and fans will know what that means. Three or four cracking tracks, while the rest are either ok or no good at all. What was bad though about the original CD issue was the hugely underwhelming sound - very dull and compressed. The gatefold slip of paper that represented the original booklet too wasn't much better either - it barely gave musician credits and that was it. My original CD is now gold coloured through corrosion, but it still plays!
The tapes on this 2007 re-issue have been remastered by DALLAS SIMPSON - and a nice job done too - it's much better - not spectacular so, but having A/B'd the two, it's definitely better. The booklet too is improved to 8 pages - it has photos of the one CD single that came off the album, "Deny This Love", lyrics to "Send Me One Line" which was inspired by the '84 Charing Cross Road' book and film and an album history by JOHN HILLARBY. But bizarrely enough, One World have forgotten to include the session men who actually played on it - the one scrap of info on the original inlay?
There are 5 bonus tracks and are a very mixed bag. 12 and 13 are the two exclusive songs on the "Deny This Love" CD single from August 1990 (CD PERM 1). 12 is a `remix' of the song, which drops the awful acapella beginning and is very much better for it, while 13 is an ok-only live version of "The Apprentice". The last 3 are previously unreleased live versions from the 1990 "Apprentice Tour" and are the most disappointing of all. Not performance wise, but soundwise - they're covered in hiss and sound like they were dubbed off some crinkly old cassette tape - a real shame because the performances on "Send Me One Line" and "Look At The Girl" are particularly good. A real bummer that - and its easy to see why they were left in the can up until now.
Highlights on the album include the beautiful ballad "Send Me One Line" and the equally soft and lovely album closer, "Patterns In The Rain". One of the great moments on the 11-track CD album is "The Moment" (a bonus track not on the vinyl LP) - and it was this I looked forward to hearing most. There's an acoustic guitar break in it that bursts out of the speakers - and this remaster has at last given that `moment' real muscle.
He followed "The Apprentice" with "Cooltide" in 1992, a much better album I think.
I adore John Martyn and his truly fantastic soulful voice and achingly touching song writing. He could fart in a bottle and I'd still want to hear it. Try "Send Me One Line", "Hold Me" or "Patterns" on iTunes and you'll hear what you've been missing.
PS: One World Records is the label imprint by VOICEPRINT of the UK dedicated to John Martyn's work. It features remastered reissues of his albums along with newly discovered titles from the archives. Titles so far include:
1. "The Apprentice" from 1990, his 1st album in the UK on Permanent Records, it's original 11 CD tracks have had 5 Bonus Tracks Added (2007 release) (REVIEWED ABOVE)
2. "Cooltide", from 1991, his 2nd album in the UK for Permanent Records - a gem of an album (2007 release) (see SEPARATE REVIEW)
3. "Couldn't Love You More" from 1992, an album of 15 excellent re-recordings of his Island Label stuff, now remastered with two bonus tracks added (2007 release) (see SEPARATE REVIEW)
4. "No Little Boy" from 1993, an album of 14 re-recordings covering his career from 1970 up to 1991, now remastered with 2 bonus tracks (2008 release)
5. "One World Records Sampler CD", 14 Tracks, 1 of which is an exclusive live version of "Amsterdam" recorded in Oxford, October 1982 (available online only) (2008 release)
6. "Live", a new set with 20 tracks across 2CDs (2008 release)
PPS: "The Simmer Dim" is John Martyn's new album and is due Monday, 9 June 2008 - it's a live set from 1980