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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

John Martyn

The Apprentice, 3CD/DVD Remastered & Expanded Box Set

Review by Gary Hill

John Martyn was clearly part of the folkier side of the prog movement, and that's part of why I've landed this set under the "progressive rock" heading. Additionally, this has enough fusion and proggy moments to really tip the balance in that direction. That said, this particular period of Martyn's career seems to be centered more around smoother jazz concepts. His music really transformed over the years, and this is one example of that.

Here we get three CDs and one DVD. The first CD is the original studio album (with two bonus tracks), while the other two CDs contain a live concert. That concert leans more heavily on the progressive rock side, and the songs from the studio album presented there seem to be even more potent in concert. The DVD is a concert film of the same show presented on the CDs. I have to say that the video on the film seems a little under modern standards, but I consider it a bonus feature, so it's icing on the cake, rather than the full meal. All in all, I found this set to be compelling and entertaining.

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Track by Track Review
CD One:
The Apprentice – Remastered
Live on Love

Percussion starts the track. Other elements come in to complete the arrangement. The vocals come in over the top of that. There are hints of fusion here along with some things that make me think of Traffic. This gets more energized and involved later. It has a real soulful bluesy edge to it in some ways.

The River
This definitely has a real fusion groove to it. It's packed full of soul and style, too.
Look at the Girl
I really love the horn work on this stylish fusion groove. This just oozes cool.
Income Town
They make this one sound like a live recording. It's a bouncy cut that has some killer grooves.
Send Me One Line
I absolutely love the horn solo on this jazzy ballad. The whole track works so well, though.
Deny This Love
There is a real tribal groove as this cut gets underway. The number works out to more of a jazzy groove from there. The keyboard sounds on this are dated, but also pretty cool. The saxophone paints some awesome pictures.
Hold Me
This gets underway nearly acapella. This works out to another jazzy sort of romp that works really well.
I love this groove. it has a real jazz meets world music vibe to it.
The Apprentice
The title track has some killer bass work and a great jazz groove. This gets more involved and driving later.
The Moment
Here we get a balladic cut. This is classy, but perhaps not up the level of some of the rest.
Patterns in the Rain
Now, this one also comes in balladic and mellow, but it really works out into some killer, proggy, jazzy ways.
Bonus Tracks:
Deny This Love (single remix)

This works well in this rendition. It seems a little punchier like this.

The Apprentice (live)
I really love the bass sound on this live performance. The whole cut seems more energized and dramatic here. This has much more fusion in the mix. It really gets taken to a higher level on this thing.
CD Two:
Live at The Shaw Theatre
London 31st March 1990
Easy Blues

An acoustic guitar driven number, this has a lot of old school blues built into it. It also grooves and swings in some great ways.

May You Never
Jazz, blues and more seem to merge on this tune. I really dig this song. It just has so much intimate charm to it.
More driving and rocking, this still has a stripped back arrangement. This one definitely rises up in prog directions as it continues to build. There is some killer jamming later in the track that has plenty of both progressive rock and fusion in the mix.
Outside In
Wow! The classic, mellow jazz groove on this thing is absolutely magic. There are definitely fusion and jazz prog things at play here. This is one of the sheer highlights of this whole box set. The instrumental section gets into some great explorations.
Never Let Me Go
I really dig the saxophone on this thing. The tune has a lot of style and charm. It's more of a ballad. It has a mellow jazz vibe that works really well.
A more energetic jazzy groove is on the menu here. This is another classy tune.
Could Not Love You More
I really love the great jazz vibe on this number, too. This is of the smooth variety, but there is still plenty of meat on the bones.
Deny This Love
This live take on the tune from the main album is on fire. They really ramp up the fusion and the energy. It' gets decidedly funky and has some killer horn work. Ignore the bass playing at your peril, though.
Fisherman’s Dream
This tune has a great jazzy swing and sway to it. It's another classy number that works so well.
Big Muff
While not a big change, this has more energy and some tasty jamming built into it. This thing gets seriously funky for a time later.
Here we get a mellower groove. This has a bit of a bluesy element, but it's still well set in a fusion jazz kind of motif. The guitar solo on this brings some real prog rock to the table.
Sweet Little Mystery
While not a big change, this is another solid live entry.
CD Three:
Live at The Shaw Theatre
London 31st March 1990
The River

I like this jazz groove a lot.

Income Town
The jazz stylings are inspired on this piece. This thing gets quite powerful before it's over.
The Apprentice
There is a serious prog groove as this song gets going. It's a classy number that has a cool flow and vibe to it. It seems more powerful than the studio version. Given how strong that take of the song is, that says a lot.
John Wayne
Cool Middle-Eastern sounds are heard as this gets going. It shifts from there to some intriguing, experimental sounding stuff. This is a decidedly proggy sort of piece with plenty of fusion built into it. The cut gets really powerful before it's over.
Look at That Girl
A tasty jazz tapestry emerges early on this. There is so much style and charm built into this thing.
Looking On
The vocal performance on this song seems particularly inspired the music gets into some of the proggiest territory of the whole set on the instrumental section later in the number. This is definitely one of the brightest shining stars here.
Johnny Too Bad
Blues, jazz and proggy things merge on this classy song. The instrumental section on this turns almost Grateful-Dead-does-fusion in it's jam band goodness. This thing is nearly 15-minutes long, and they really put all that time to good use.
One World
Coming in mellower and decidedly proggy, this number works out nicely from there. The vocals on the song are so evocative and powerful, and the whole mellow fusion arrangement just works particularly well.


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