Classics - Artful CD31

1 Jun 2000
Record Collector #250
Simon Ward
John Martyn
Artful CD 31 (2-CD) (73:57) (70:39)

One might expect a John Martyn album entitled Classics to provide exactly what it says. However, while the songs on offer are admittedly classics, the performance of them is less so. Most of the tracks are culled from 1991's Couldn't Love You More album, where Martyn unwisely chose to re-record his best acoustic moments with an electric band. That and the presence of guest stars such as Phil Collins and Dave Gilmour led to weak, keyboard-laden, soft-jazz versions of what were originally starkly beautiful songs.

The Nick Drake eulogy, Solid Air, in particular suffers from its new arrangement, with an obtrusive saxophone obscuring Martyn's bruised vocals. It's a similar case with other back catalogue gems, such as Bless The Weather and Couldn't Love You More. Indeed, only Man With The Station [sic] is emboldened by its revamp. Contemporary material, such as John Wayne and Fisherman's Blues [sic], is pretty good. But, overall, this isn't the definitive collection that it claims to be. Martyn novices are directed to Island's Sweet Little Mystery compilation, instead.

Simon Ward

This review was published in Record Collector #250 of June 2000, in the Albums | Folk & Roots section on page 172. The issue had Bob Dylan and the Beatles on the cover and originally cost £ 2.95.

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