Various rereleases - IMCD

1 Jun 1994
Rob Beattie
John Martyn: a bit like Sting, apparently

The Tumbler
Inside Out
ISLAND IMCD 172 * * *
ISLAND IMCD 180 * * * *

Often as not, early days are unrevealing, and with The Tumbler (1968) it's not immediately obvious that John Martyn would subsequently take an odd electrical path. It's the second album from this outstanding guitar player – clean, breakneck picking, bits of blues, English whimsy, and the employment of some daring late '60s flute.
By Inside Out (1973) the brittleness in his voice gives way to a Tom Waits-like boozy drawl, and instrumentally, he's a slave to the foot pedal, drawing a tangle of unlikely sounds from the guitar (bagpipes on Traditional, God knows what on Outside In); here, Glory Of Love is incongruous in a way that it wouldn't have been on The Tumbler.
Foundations (1987) is an altogether richer, more mellow experience (though Martyn's bellowing on the chorus of John Wayne is terrifying); recorded live in London and featuring a guitarless version of May You Never, Martyn weaves confidently between pop and jazz in a way that's curiously reminiscent of Sting.

Rob Beattie

Picture of the article provided by John Neil Munro