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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 4 May 2004
Ever broken up with a wife? Or a long-term girlfriend? How did it make you feel? Pretty low? Start losing touch with reality? Or full of the joys of spring? I guess it affects us all in different ways. It sent John Martyn into a fit of raging creativity which resulted in this fantastic album, complete with the staggeringly wondrous drumming of an equally distraught Phil Collins. Which is a bit odd.
Martyn's music is pretty moody - "Solid Air" is THE 3 a.m. album. But I've never tried listening to this at 3 a.m. It'd scare the hell out me - I'd be terrified of ex-girlfriends crawling out from under the bed to get me. Martyn faces up to his own demons here only after he's travelled through self-loathing (for the first four tracks) and denial (for the next three - and what tracks!) with his admission "You didn't get it all because I saved some for me...I cheated on the side."
But none of that is very important. What makes this stand out from other "break-up" albums is the the incredible efforts Martyn makes to get just the right sounds for each track. Take, for instance, the incredibly piercing guitars on "Baby Please Come Home", whose notes are like terrible fingers trying to break into the soul; or the crashing cymbals and choppy rhythms of "Looking On", which sound like a mind unable to settle, unable to find any answers to any of the questions asked by the lyrics. If you listened to that at 3 a.m., you wouldn't sleep for a week afterwards. And what about those drums! To hear that sort of sensitivity, you'd never believe this was the same Phil Collins that ruined Genesis. Crazy what a divorce can do for a man!
The three killers come in the middle, beginning with "Sweet Little Mystery" - here the pace slows a little and Martyn makes room for simple sadness; but it's all so exquisitely executed, and so generously lucid, that the listener doesn't take the pain on board, only the sense of hope which comes from hearing a man meeting such pain with such monolithic creativity, and gratitude that he's made such efforts to express that pain so lucidly. It's really like nothing else.
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I have owned this album in various forms over the years and can categorically state that this is the best version of it that I have had yet. The remastering has been done with a strong emphasis on sound quality, not just a quick eq and a hike in the loudness. Phil Collins drumming comes across so clearly on this new cd that every brush stroke and cymbal crash can easily be heard, and it is wonderful stuff indeed.

This separation of instruments let more of the music get out, there are keyboard fills, guitar licks and a host of subtleties that I never heard before.

John Martyn certainly laid it on the line when he was writing this lot. Every emotion is played out across the main album. I was never aware of just how low he was at the time. Needless to say the remastering has made his vocals that bit clearer and easier to decipher.

The extra tracks are not really why this album ought to be bought. They do not match the quality of the original album for various reasons. Interesting, but not essential.

A must buy for fans of John Martyn, or those who need converting to his works.
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on 26 February 2001
To show that the best music/literature and art in general comes from bad times one should listen to this fine album. It is written in part as a result of a marriage break up and one can really feel the pain he is going through on some of the tracks. A much underrated performer and songwriter and a great introduction if you don't already own any John Martyn.
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on 24 September 2002
Listening to this astonishing work is like actually watching his relationship disintegrate. It runs the whole gamut of post-separation emotions, from anger to despair -- "Baby Please Come Home" is the most plaintive, heart-rending and truly pathetic cry for help you will ever hear. These are the words and thoughts of a man clearly on the edge. Brilliant but disturbing, especially if you've been there yourself.
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on 7 December 2012
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.
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on 1 March 2007
Great to have a well remastered version of this classic album. For personal reasons this will always be my favourite John Martyn record. For John it signalled the conclusion of a stormy marriage, for me G&D was a key component in developing a relationship that led to a much happier experience.
Every track on the original album is good, but when Sweet little mystery kicks in, the music reaches a higher plane and never comes back down. The singing and the cleverly restrained playing (Collins on drums, Giblin on Bass & Eyre on keys) is top draw. The content is genuine, honest (frighteningly so) and very moving.
The first thing that strikes you with this release is the quality of the packaging - why cant they all be like this? - really beautiful.
The live tracks are very good and bring back memories. The outtakes, demos & unreleased material are OK and of interest, but for me they dont quite measure up by comparison to the supreme quality of the original versions. The One World deluxe package was better rounded and more consistent. So for me Original album 6 stars, but the rest a little lower.
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on 12 November 2007
Martyn is perhaps one of the most erratic recording artists, a reflection presumably of the ups and downs in his own life. As is well documented, 'Grace & Danger' corresponds with one of these troughs, and has resulted in an album which is staggeringly perfect in its artistic and musical execution. The mid-section 'denial' trio of songs beginning with 'Sweet Little Mystery' are ones I return to with depressing regularity. They are sublimely beautiful, and worth the price of the CD alone. Phil Collins and John Giblin are the most wonderfully intuitively rhythm section,so much so that I almost forgive Collins for both being in Genesis and writing Face Value, but nothing is quite that good. This record is far from depressing, being both haunting and quite, quite indispensible.
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on 2 February 2008
When the artist remarks "Grace and Danger was very cathartic, and really hurt, I was really in love with that woman" you just know that this is not going to be a rib-tickling listen. Famously kept on the shelves for a whole year such was Island Records' concern for its content, 'Grace And Danger' is one John Martyn's most striking releases. Charting the demise of his marriage to Beverly Kutner, painfully self-knowing and -lacerating and startling after the jazzy world/folk of its predecessors, this nonetheless features strong material notably the title track, 'Johnny Too Bad' and the sublime 'Sweet Little Mystery' offsetting some of the more industrial angst beaming through the period production gloss in taut ensemble playing from Martyn on guitars, John Biblin on bass, and Phil Collins (also undergoing a divorce) on drums. A well-executed 2-disc reissue of the original 1980 album with 18 previously unreleased out-takes and contemporary live performances to enjoy, this release is a far cry indeed from the relative ambience of 'One World' and 'The Duster', but John Martyn always challenges and here, his pain is our pleasure.
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on 17 April 2007
What can I add to the previous reviews except to right an injustice. The songwriting and performances on this album are among Jm's best. An oft-verlooked element of the disc is Phil Collin's drumming. Too often people berate him for his solo and later Genesis output but those who do I would draw their attention to this album - his performance is pretty much perfect, supportive, subtle and entirely complementary to the music. Whatever else he might be, PC is a damn fine drummer and knows how to do justice to a song because first and foremost he's a band player. He made a guest appearance at one of JM's gigs in the 80's and I was lucky enough to be there. That said, I didn't appreciate it at the time as I was on a PC backlash kick - More fool me (ha!) - and thought it unfair that he got a bigger cheer than John Martyn. Ah, the follies of youth. I'd love to hear this on surround sound to save me listening on headphones (usually the best way to pick out the details). Who'd have thought I'd be sticking up for Phil collins (not me)? This album, along with many others in the Genesis canon, shows him for what he is.
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on 14 April 2009
John Martyn made many albums. Some were musically of their time and have dated; a few were just not that good. This album is not stuck in a 1980s timewarp and is one of his best. It remains fresh, painfully honest and emotionally on the edge. This remaster is excellent; perhaps the additional stuff is not as good as you get with the One World package but the core album now sounds so excellent little else matters.
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