Piece By Piece - Island L38516

12 Jun 1986
The Age
Mike Daly
Martyn's score for modernism
JOHN Martyn celebrates 20 years as a professional musician with Piece By Piece (Island L38516), an album that is both contemporary and a showpiece for his instrumental vocals.
New Notes

The Martyn guitar is still relegated to the background, a trend on recent LPs, although Martyn insists the musical melting pot is what matters, not his guitar playing.

Nightline throbs to a combination of guitar and Foster Paterson's keyboards, with busy percussion (Danny Cummings) and bass (Alan Thomson) that should work well in dance clubs. The repetitive Lonely Love opens to a lilting saxophone and gently rocking beat, with a jazzy organ break; Angeline, a slow, lovely ballad, features what sounds like a Japanese koto (probably synthesised) embellishing the melody; One Step Too Far and the title track continue the hypnotic spell, with the latter building soft rhythmic patterns that soothe and caress.

Serendipity shakes to a percussive samba; on Who Believes In Angels Martyn's voice climbs as he delivers a subtle, singular rock ballad; Love Of Mine pulsates to layered rhythms as Colin Tully's soprano sax hovers overhead.

The final tour de force is the apocalyptic John Wayne, a dense, macabre, slow rocker with jazzy undertones. This, more than all other tracks, epitomises the bleakly humorous approach of John Martyn. The fusion of influences and instruments is powerful but the guitar, lost amid the keyboards, is no longer a distinctive voice. Along with many Martyn fans, I await its return.


This Australian review found its way to The Age (Melbourne) of Thursday 12 June 1986.

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