Road To Ruin, Sunday's Child, Sapphire (CD reissues)

15 May 1992
Melody Maker
Chris Roberts


ONE of the great unsung heroes (although two decades of own-furrow albums suggests somebody somewhere loves you), John Martyn on a good day could interweave the ghostly flair of an Alex Chilton, the abstract grace of Talk Talk, and the ventricles and auricles of Al Green's soul.

His plebeian folk roots were soon usurped by aspirations towards a higher ground - gentle washes of languorous sound became his trademark, given skyscraping emotion by his husky persuasive voice and effortlessly descriptive guitar.

1982's [sic] Grace And Danger remains one of the few records that you can still call 'shimmering' without involuntarily wincing, and there are those who swear by One World and Solid Air. Of these three re-issues, however, Sunday's Child is far and away the loveliest. Never before or since can an album featuring a bearded man in a cheesecloth shirt on its cover have proven so sexy. From the acoustic plateaux and exquisite melodic phrasing of 'One Day Without You' to the percussively berserk 'Root Love', from the velvet lilt of the title track to the supremely sensuous seven minutes of 'Call Me Crazy' (you want it to go on three times as long), this is the kind of broody probing music no one will ever make again. Oh God, I just realised that. How sad.

1984's Sapphire is largely just a deep blue re-run of the matchless Grace And Danger, but Martyn's so-soft-they-scream vocals reinvent 'Over The Rainbow' with more garlands than you could fling around a giraffe's neck, and turn up unexpected trumps on 'Rope-soul'd'. 1970's duet with his missus is a bit gooey (they take turns and stuff) and a bit hippy (songs about Primrose Hill and mad aunties), but has moments where the foxy outslinks the folksy.
F***ing Martyn - a man and a half.