FOUNDATIONS, John Martyn. Island Records, through Festival.
JOHN Martyn fans will probably be disappointed with this album. Joe Cocker fans, however, might think it's great. A famous Irish [sic] folkie who now has an English accent seems to have sold his soul for concert commercialism. It's very sad.
This is a live album of old and new, recorded at the Town and Country Club in London. Instead of the Martyn of 10 years ago, whose magic voice was only backed by a steely guitar, this man has surrounded himself with instruments. There are keyboards, bass guitars, drums, percussion and a sax. The real music is crowded out.
And you wouldn't be a fool if you mistook the vocalist for a certain gravel-voiced Englishman. The tempo of most of these songs is even and safe. It just ain't like it used to be. But for what it is, this album has a few redeeming features.
One is Johnny Too Bad. It's the second-last track, and Martyn finally lets his voice go the way it wants to. It drags triumphantly over this folked-down, rocked-up, bluesy sort of number and the sax and bongos actually add something to it.
May You Never is another. This is an oldie but a sensitive goodie.
"May you never lay your head down without a hand to hold | May you never make your bed out in the cold | May you never lose your temper if you get in a bar-room fight, | May you never lose your lover overnight." The last line used to be 'lose your woman.' He's been liberated.
Mad Dog Days, dedicated off-the-cuff to Margaret Thatcher, is the other track worth a listen. Otherwise, for vintage Martyn, buy an earlier album. Not everything gets better with age.
This review was published Sunday 19 June 1988 on page 14 of the Canberra Times. It was combined with The Lion And The Cobra by Sinéad O'Connor.