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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

John Martyn

Sixty Minutes with John Martyn

Review by Gary Hill

For those who wonder about why John Martyn is included in progressive rock there are a couple of reasons. For one thing, his jazzy mix of sounds doesn’t come all tha far from the more jazz-oriented mellow progressive rock. Secondly, the inclusion of Phil Collins and David Gilmour puts the decision over the edge. This compilation shows some of the artist’s best works. Since some of these songs were on the other John Martyn CD review I did, those track by track reviews are adapted from that review for a sense of consistency.

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
Bless the Weather
This builds gradually in a dramatic fashion that is very much in keeping with progressive rock. As the bass enters we get some more jazzy textures. When the guitar joins the motif becomes more bluesy.
Couldn't Love You More
This is a slow number that’s 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.
Cooltide
At around twelve and a half minutes this is the longest track on the CD. It feels like a Traffic sort of jam that’s really tasty. It moves out into some Zappa meets Crimson textures later. As you might guess this has a little bit of jam band, quite a big chunk of prog and a lot of style. There is some killer guitar work and funky bass included in the extended instrumental movement later in the track.
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.
Over The Hill
This has more of a 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 a great tune and I like this one a lot.
Patterns in the Rain
This is a bouncy little, jazz inspired number that’s cool.
A Little Strange
With a bit of a French feel, this has a great soulful groove and is another cool one. While the overall motif doesn’t vary much from some of the other material here, this is one of the standouts.
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 some of the other stuff here. The Phil Collins leaning is a natural since Collins provides some of the vocals here.
May You Never Know
Here we get a live version of the song from Couldn’t Love You More. Even as presented in the studio version, this is one of the more pure folk outings. Here it has even more of that sound with a stripped down arrangement. It’s cool and a nice change of pace.
Solid Air
Another live rendition of a track from Couldn’t Love You More, This is less jazzy than the studio take, feeling a bit more bluesy and oh so tasty. I’d have to say that while I like the original rendition, I think I enjoy this one more. It’s a killer.
Big Muff
Well, I refuse to comment on that title, but this is one hell of a killer rocking piece of music. It’s another that has a bit of a Traffic vibe to it, but you might also hear King Crimson and Zappa on this one, too.
 
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