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Ain't No Saint

1 Nov 2008
Mojo #180
Phil Sutcliffe

John Martyn

****

Ain't No Saint

UNIVERSAL/ ISLAND

Compiled with due devotion, a 4-CD box set of faves, unearthed lives and outtakes.

When he started out, John Martyn believed himself to be a folk artist and thus it was that on his debut album he strummed acoustic guitar and intoned arcadian hippytudes. But this 40-year selection shows that the singer-songwriter-guitarist was merely fooling himself. The titanic tippler and toker purrs and slurs his way through swampy blues, smooth Philly soul, spacey echoplexed prog and/or trip-hop (of a muchness really) until, apparently, he winds up realising that he was a jazzer all along.

This box set boasts at least one song from every one of his studio albums, but often coming in a previously unreleased version so that the effect is both familiar and fresh. It also perfectly illustrates the artist's Annoying Period when he became so hip that he sang every 's' as a 'z', hence the outtake In The Evening's 'zzingin' a zzong' and 'zzlowly zzliding'. Otherwise, mellow or melancholy, this near-five hours of music captures the very essence of a go-with-the-endless-flow phenomenon.

Phil Sutcliffe

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