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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

John Martyn

Couldn't Love You More

Review by Gary Hill

OK, I get it, John Martyn’s not exactly prog rock, but in many ways he’s not far from it. While you most often see him listed as a “folk” musician, this disc proves that the man really had the jazz sort of thing covered. This jazz meets rock approach, while a bit more pop-oriented than a lot of prog, isn’t all that far off beam. With guests like Phil Collins and David Gilmour it just seemed appropriate to put the disc over into progressive rock. This is actually a great album that has a killer jazzy groove and some blue-eyed soul. This is a reissue of the disc (it had been out of print for quite a while) and includes a couple live numbers as bonus tracks.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Lonely Love
This has a great bluesy groove and reminds me a bit of Traffic at times. It’s pretty and evocative.
Couldn't Love You More
This is much slower and packed with emotion. The horn soloing is brilliant as is the general melody line. I hear echoes of Joe Cocker on the vocals.When this turns out to a more swinging groove later it’s a nice touch.
Sweet Little Mystery
I’d put this song closest to a Doobie Brothers meets Phil Collins solo music category. It’s good but doesn’t hold up as well as the two tracks that preceded it. The Phil Collins leaning is a natural since Collins provides some of the vocals here.
Head and Heart
Another slow moving piece, this has a pretty balladic jazz groove. The Doobie Brothers/Michael McDonald thing is present here, too, but in some ways this one also shows off some of those folk tendencies, essentially just in parts of the vocal delivery. The saxophone solo is especially tasty.
Could've Been Me
This one rises up with a choir of female gospel singers. The Joe Cocker tendencies on the vocals are even more obvious. David Gilmour joins on this track, lending his fretboard skills. We get some more killer horn work on this track, too. This is one of the stronger pieces on show here.
One Day Without You
Here we get a much slower approach and while the overall tone of the music hasn’t shifted that far there are some keyboard textures here that remind me a bit of Vangelis’ work with Jon Anderson.
Over The Hill
This has more of that folky texture. In fact, you can hear that if the other instrumentation were removed (the horns and such), this would really be a fairly traditional folk song. This has a rather countrified texture at times. It’s both a good change of pace and a great tune. I like this one a lot.
Fine Lines
Slower and very bluesy, this is an intriguing piece. I hear all kinds of tendencies on here, mostly on the vocal delivery – everything from Dr. John to Eric Clapton and more Joe Cocker. This is a rather unique piece of music on the disc, showing a character that is unlike pretty much everything else here. It’s actually one of the more pure progressive rock cuts on the disc.
May You Never
This is one of the more pure folk songs on the CD. I’d say that I hear a bit of Jim Croce on this one, but it has plenty of other leanings, too. It’s a fun tune and another that serves as a good change up.
One World
With a great slow groove, this one is nearly all pure jazzy prog. It reminds me a bit of some of Tony Levin’s mellower solo works. It gets more energized later, but never loses either its quality power or its evocative nature. This is my favorite track on the CD.
Ways To Cry
Both Phil Collins and David Gilmour return on this number. This has a dramatic prog rock texture to it and is another of my favorites on show here. We get some tasty sax soloing on this.
Angeline
This is a very mellow, jazz ballad type of number. It’s soulful and tasty. It works out into a proggy sort of motif later on.
Man in the Station
This is slow and jazzy with a bit of a Clapton sort of groove. It’s one of the more “rock” oriented pieces on show here. It powers out into some killer harder rocking sounds and keeps right on growing. I like this one a lot.
Solid Air
We’re back into the jazzy sounds on this one. It’s mellow and has a great slow texture to it. It’s another that in places reminds me a bit of something from Tony Levin or perhaps Bill Bruford. It’s still got a bit of that Clapton sound to it, too, though.
Never Let Me Go
This is one of the coolest tracks on the CD. It’s slow and sedate, pretty and emotional. It’s a bluesy, jazzy ballad that’s extremely tasty. On the original edition of the disc this was the closer, and certainly seems like it must have worked well in that slot.
Couldn't Love You More (Live)
The first live bonus number is the disc’s title piece. It’s got a bit more of a rock feeling to it in this format and comes much closer to fitting into the “progressive rock” genre. I think I might like this one better than the studio take. Part of that might be because of the extended arrangement (it’s almost twice as long as the original version).
Never Let Me Go (Live)
They close things out with this live rendition of what (in studio form) ended the original CD. The differences on this one are not so clear as they were on the last piece. Still, that song is so stellar that it really translates well in the live medium and still serves as a great end.
 
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