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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Solid Air

John Martyn

1973

Solid Air

Album Summary

Solid Air is the fourth studio album by British folk singer-songwriter John Martyn, released in February 1973 by Island Records. The album was recorded over eight days and features instrumental contributions by bassist Danny Thompson and members of Fairport Convention. "Solid Air", the title track, was dedicated to a friend of Martyn's, Nick Drake, who would die of an antidepressant overdose 18 months after the album was released. Martyn said of the track "It was done for a friend of mine, and it was done right with very clear motives, and I'm very pleased with it, for varying reasons. It has got a very simple message, but you'll have to work that one out for yourself." The album features an avant-garde cover of Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman", here retitled "I'd Rather Be the Devil" and performed with heavy use of Martyn's Echoplex tape delay effect. Contemporary reviews were favourable, with music weekly Sounds declaring that "Solid Air flows beautifully and shows the entire spectrum of music that John Martyn has at his fingertips." In a retrospective review, American Songwriter described the album as "timeless" and stated that "audacious, hypnotic and groundbreaking only begins to describe Martyn’s still unique combination of folk, jazz, blues and space rock, wrapped around riveting, unforgettable melodies." AllMusic called Solid Air "one of the defining moments of British folk" and noted its genre-blending. BBC Music stated that "it's a classic with not a note out of place.. And ably assisted by John Wood's late night production it's now firmly esconced in the hearts of chillers, smokers and music lovers the world over." Solid Air was rated as the 67th Greatest British Album Ever by the British music magazine Q, and was also included in their list of Best Chill-Out Albums Of All Time. The album is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery. It was voted number 826 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd Edition (2000).

Wikipedia

Rating

3.21

Votes

5774

Genres

  • Rock
  • Folk
  • Pop
  • Singer Songwriter
Reviews
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Sat Sep 18 2021
1

This is like a Bob Ross painting without Bob Ross.

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Wed Nov 17 2021
3

The term oxymoron was first used in the 1657 apparently. Over 300 years later, John Martyn attempted to kill it softly with the bland and boring title track to "Solid Air." As the album opened, and "Solid Air" dragged on for over 5 minutes, I worried I wouldn't be able to make it through this album. My intense apathy towards the song nearly made me let out a silent scream, and it made me wish I'd started the album in a random order. But the only choice was to press on, hoping for a minor miracle to end the sweet misery (in my unbiased opinion). Luckily, "Over the Hill" quickly picked up the pace. And there was plenty more interesting to come after that. If I had skipped "Solid Air" and took a big toke when the second track started, I think it would have really hit me mid-way through the controlled chaos that is "I'd Rather Be the Devil." Folk, psychedelic rock, jazz, and blues, and more all come together with uneven results, making for what is perhaps undeniably an interesting listen. I went from * after the first track, then see-sawed back-and-forth repeatedly, briefly considering a ****. In the end, my only choice was to split the difference and stick with ***.

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Fri Aug 13 2021
2

Day 139: John Martyn - Solid Air (1973) First impressions: I absolutely loathe John Martyn's singing. His mumbling, slurred delivery is like drunk easy listening baby talk. One thing I do like is the organic, tactile feel of the standup bass, guitar, and Fender Rhodes accompaniment. Unusual for this kind of music, the musicians were given the basic outlines of the tunes and they just improvised the rest. There are no arrangements as such. Okay, that was just the first song, Solid Air. With Over the Hill, the style completely changes. This is more or less straight ahead folk-pop, and reasonably pleasing. Martyn drops the grotesque vocal affections from the first tune. The interaction between the mandolin and guitar on this tune gives it a driving quality. The third tune, Don't Want To Know, starts out with just a guitar and Fender Rhodes and is then joined by drums. One of the things I like about this album is that Martyn gives a lot of attention to rhythm. A lot of folk feels inert. Not this. There is a constant tug between the instruments to create a groove. It isn't danceable, but it has real energy. Oh no! On I'd Rather Be The Devil, Martyn reverts to baby talk. This must be his "jazz" voice or something. It ruins an otherwise fine track, which adds elements of rock, a smidgeon of funk, and even a soupcon of psychedelia! Again, I appreciate the organic, tactile feel that the band pulls off. I really enjoyed the extended instrumental coda of I'd Rather Be The Devil. Ugh! With Go Down Easy, we once again get Martyn's "jazz" voice. Okay, this album is a real mixed bag. John Martyn, obviously inspired by jazz, went for an improvisatory feel on this album, along with some traditional jazz instrumentation, which pays off handsomely. The instrumental textures on this album have a real richness. This goes a long way, as the songs themselves are no big deal. Unfortunately, Martyn was inspired to adjust his voice for the more jazz inspired tunes, which is a disaster. So, you have an album which is musically pleasant more often than not, but with lead vocals that range from so-so to vile. 2/5

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Sat Jan 23 2021
5

I had heard his name - mainly in association with other folkies from his era (Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, Nick Drake, etc), but I don’t think I’d ever heard his music. This is an absolutely unique, strange, and fascinating listen. A crazy mix of straightforward, earnest folk music and MUCH more experimental stuff. Acoustic backslap guitar, pronounced jazz-like bass, saxophone, off-kilter beats/drums, odd instrumentation (did I hear a dijereedoo in there?) and borderline stream of consciousness slippery/mumbled lyrics that play along with the music. I could listen to this all day long. I’m going to dig into the rest of his catalog.

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Mon Aug 30 2021
5

Not a single disharmony nor jilt on the whole album. Probably one of the best discoveries for me so far

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Tue Aug 09 2022
5

I had no idea what I was putting on when I started this. The first song (“Solid Air”) had me thinking jazz album. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the vocal delivery. The second song (“Over The Hill”) had me thinking bluegrass undertones. The third song (“Don’t Want To Know”) was back on the jazzier side. The fourth song (“I’d Rather Be The Devil”) becomes decidedly more funky… Turns out this is a very interesting and diverse British folk album from the 70s. The first time through I was intrigued if a little confused. On the second listen I locked in and fell in love with Solid Air and its very chill vibe. Martyn’s vocals really started to appeal to me. I really love the vibe and the instruments… a super nice experience. Not only a nice addition to better round out my musical tastes, but something I will enjoy hearing again and again. Some of my immediate favorites: Solid Air (so atmospheric!), Over The Hill (so down homey!), Dreams By The Sea (so funky!), May You Never (so uplifting), The Man in the Station (lovely with just a touch of drama)

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Mon Dec 20 2021
4

The overall ambience and mood achieved on ‘Solid Air’ is quite incredible. It’s smoky, intimate folk rock, with a strong jazz influence and dub elements, where the space between the grooves is just as important as the actual music. It’s a record you can almost dance to in parts, as well as nod your head to, and it’s definitely one for the stoners.

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Thu Jan 21 2021
2

Never heard anything off this before. Not really my cup of tea, reminds me of music a yuppie couple would have sex to. Stand out track I don't want to know about evil

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Thu Aug 26 2021
2

I hadn't heard of this artist or any of his songs, and I didn't know what to expect when I clicked on the album to play it. Some interesting stuff here. Quite a variety of styles. Not interested enough to come back to for me, but it wasn't bad.

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Sat Nov 14 2020
5

Delightful. Flows beautifully between singing and playing. The guitar is the right amount of percussive. Martyn's voice is unique and captivating and like another instrument.

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Thu Jul 15 2021
5

- personally biased, this is 100% my jam. - unexpected jazz/blues elements with modern folk stylistics - suprising, polished and confident.

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Mon Dec 14 2020
2

Not bad but I think I would have liked it more without vocals. He sounds like me mumble singing to myself walking to the car or something

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Sat Feb 20 2021
2

Fairly dull, slurry folk

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Sat Feb 20 2021
2

Didn't get much out of this some of the music was fine, he seemed drunk, some of the vocals were a bit mumbled/slurred in parts which was distracting. 2*

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Wed Nov 17 2021
2

This album is all over the place. He mumbles so badly at times that I can’t tell what is being said. There are several instances where I dig what is going on. Overall, I’m turning this album off.

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Fri Nov 19 2021
2

Listened to this about a week ago but forgot to write the review. I can hardly remember anything about it - which tells you something... What I do remember: the singer mumbles a lot - didn't care for his delivery. Seemed like he was trying a bit too hard to sound like somebody else. Otherwise, kinda boring. Not bad or offensive. Some likable songs. But mostly just kinda meh.

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Thu Apr 22 2021
1

Solid Trash

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Wed Oct 28 2020
5

Álbum incrível. Já virou um clássico para mim. Acompanhar as letras transforma a experiência. Destaque: Solid Air, Don't Wanna Know e May You Never

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Wed Oct 28 2020
5

Profundo e com forte potencial terapêutico. Super original e diferente de tudo o que já ouvi. Ainda sim, com sons familiares e que me agradaram logo de cara. Ouvir mais e mais vezes

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Tue Oct 27 2020
5

Fantástico.

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Sat Feb 06 2021
5

A new favorite. Atmospheric, serious but makes you want to be in the crowd to jam along. Folksy and Jazzy with experimental effects and smoky vocals

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Wed Jan 13 2021
5

Cool, chill, jazzy

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Sat Jan 23 2021
5

Amazing album, great mix of folk and jazz. First track i wasn't big on but the rest of the album was solid

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Wed Jul 07 2021
5

'May You Never‘ hatte ich im Frühjahr (2021) gehört, weil im 1001albums-subreddit darauf verwiesen wurde, mich dann aber nicht mit Martyn beschäftigt, den ich vorher nicht kannte. Freund von Nick Drake, eine gewisse musikalische Ähnlichkeit ist unverkennbar und deshalb gefällt mir das wohl auch so gut (btw: ich hoffe, Drake ist in dieser Liste). Dieses Album ist großartig, Perlen wie diese sind der Grund, dass ich dieser Liste weiterhin folge. "it's a classic with not a note out of place" sagt BBC Music und trifft damit den Nagel auf den Kopf.

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Mon May 17 2021
5

I discovered John Martyn a good while ago through Beck covering him on a live in studio radio appearance. Later Spotify allowed me to explore his entire catalog and I was fairly obsessed with him for a while. I like nearly all of his 70s and 80s material. This album isn't my absolute favorite of his but is sort of his breakthrough and definitely a great album. The only track that doesn't fit the "night music" mood that he captures so well is the second track "over the hill" with the folksier sound of the mandolin that turns me off a bit. If you removed that track I think this would be a perfect album for me. I'm typically not a huge folk fan but I love his unique way of blending it with jazz and other elements. He maintains such a seductively subdued mood that I find hypnotic.

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Tue Feb 02 2021
5

Geweldig yeah

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Mon Feb 01 2021
5

Very enjoyable. His voice is a bit nostalgic and pleasant, same can be said for the music itself. Could see myself listening to this album again. I might be making it a bit easy to impress me now but I’m giving this a 5/5 too.

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Wed Mar 31 2021
5

Love this! Never heard of this guy, but he's incredible. Not necessarily a unique voice, but his singing is amazing. Guitar is awesome and love the jazzy vibes/ blues/folk mix going on. Love the double bass and strings in some songs too. Pretty crazy mix of stuff going on, but it works and listens super nice I think.

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Fri Apr 30 2021
5

Cantautor setentero, del rollo de Nick Drake. Sin dejar de lado el folk acostumbrado, sustenta las canciones en su guitarra y en su magnífica voz, destacando también el uso mágico del teclado que hace así como el free jazz en que derivan muchos temas. Magnífico descubrimiento.

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Tue May 11 2021
5

Wow, what a great little album. Entirely too short.

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Mon May 24 2021
5

Amazing. Way ahead of its time as far as 70s folk goes. Fantastic production, well balanced instrumentation. Loved it.

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Fri Jun 04 2021
5

Short and sweet. Good jams to work to

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Thu May 06 2021
5

Bought it!

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Thu May 06 2021
5

This is really amazing folk/jazz with some nice lyrics.

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Thu Jun 24 2021
5

it was jazzy and catchy and super sick. man in the station was one of my favorite songs, it was great

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Wed Aug 04 2021
5

Loooove this album. So mellow. Just glorious. Fave track - "Solid Air" has long been a fave. "I'd Rather Be The Devil" gets an honourable mention too...

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Tue Aug 10 2021
5

I was truly expecting to dislike this (English folk music??) but it’s actually great. The melodies are great and this isn’t like folk music I was expecting.

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Mon Sep 06 2021
5

Really good!

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Mon Sep 27 2021
5

Loved it.

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Tue Nov 23 2021
5

Top Picks: Solid Air and I Don't Wanna Know. Love love love this album! one of my all time favourites. First 5 stars I've given

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Tue Nov 23 2021
5

Yndisleg plata

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Tue Nov 30 2021
5

291121 10:37 4.5

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Fri Dec 03 2021
5

Dig this - Don't want to know

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Tue Dec 21 2021
5

It’s some good Brit pop. And has “there she goes” on it.

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Fri Dec 24 2021
5

Very cool album I’d never heard before. You can definitely hear the roots of rock/jazz/singer-songwriters like John Mayer and Jack Johnson in here.

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Mon Jan 10 2022
5

John Prine-y vibe. Nice lyrics. Felt like an album you would play to soundtrack your road trip.

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Mon Jan 24 2022
5

But I can tell you it’s hard to hide When you’re living on solid air

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Wed Feb 16 2022
5

For me it is the definitive John Martyn album.

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Sat Apr 09 2022
5

Genius. Been one of my favourite albums since I first heard it in the '80s and it still sounds wonderful.

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Mon Apr 11 2022
5

Enjoyed this alot

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Tue Jun 07 2022
5

This is the first John Martyn album I bought, possibly a year after it came out. I got it out of a delete bin for 50 cents. People who know me well get tired of me saying it's the best 50 cents I ever spent. He was an incredibly talented guitarist/singer/songwriter who effortlessly mastered any number of styles - folk, rock, blues, jazz, reggae and who knows what else. This is still possibly my favorite of his albums. Sadly he wasted his talent due to alcohol and substance abuse and his later stuff never worked nearly as well.

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Tue Jun 28 2022
5

4.5/5. Very interesting ideas for the time on a lot of these songs, and good variety

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Wed Jul 06 2022
5

Superrbly beautiful album from start to finish. Second John Martyn album I've had on here and a very happy discovery.

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Wed Aug 10 2022
5

Really found this Blum layered smoothly like a bob ross painting. It was expediently crafted by someone who knows their craft. Could listen to it again and again

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Mon Aug 15 2022
5

5/3 groove

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Thu Aug 18 2022
5

In love, just wow. Bathing in that thick solid air

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Sat Aug 27 2022
5

what a beautiful album I listened to the full 2.5hr deluxe edition and loved every second just all around amazing - 10/10

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Wed Aug 31 2022
5

I own this album - one of my top favourite musicians ever.

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Fri Sep 23 2022
5

I like this. A lot. As I was listening, I kept saying to myself "Self, says I, this cat sounds like a slightly more rocking Nick Drake". Come to find out from the Apple Music album notes that the two were buddies, and that the first track was written for Nick. After I patted myself on the back for my musical acumen, I listened to the album again (for the record, I did not do this with Napalm Death). I have a thing for music that makes me feel like I'm watching a late-night talk show in the 80s - you know, some family members are visiting, you're sleeping on the couch, and all of a sudden there's a whole world of post-10pm culture that opens up. Like my favorite photographs, I don't know exactly how to define it, but I know it when I see (hear) it. The songs "Carriage" by the Counting Crows, most early John Mayer, but "Clarity" in particular, "Circles" by Post Malone, "Magic" by Coldplay, "#41" by DMB...you get the idea. They should preferably have horns (you can just imagine Paul Shaffer and the Late Night orchestra stepping in), be restrained and sound like driving late at night. But it's also got some latent energy to it - like you know these dudes could bust out and rock if they wanted to, but it's 11:43pm on a Wednesday, they're hanging with Letterman, and just want to ride the vibe of night in NYC. That's what most of this album sounds like to me - the jam busts through from time to time, but mostly it's late, I'm on the couch, and all is right with the world...

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Wed Sep 28 2022
5

Fajny blusik

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Sun Oct 09 2022
5

One of the most influential musicians in my life, and this album was arguably his finest hour. I was obscenely young when I discovered John Martyn’s music on a clip show about Scotland’s* greatest musicians, which lead me down a rabbit hole of Martyn’s resplendent, ornate, trippy, psychedelic brand of songwriting. A live performance of the title track taken from his now iconic show at Rockpalast in Germany circa 1975 had me utterly transfixed. For someone who’s whole act was at that time incredibly barebones, he had a stage presence matched by few. How does the album version hold up? Actually not especially well. And this is a recurrent theme for the whole record. The extremely jazz infused production of these tracks detracts somewhat from Martyn’s talents rather than accentuating them. As a stripped back performer, the songs are imbued with maximum emotion. Here, the cocktail bar organ are a little too on-the-nose and indulgent. Tracks like “Don’t Want To Know” have a similarly sparse opening only to retreat into the smoky environs of mid-70s jazz clubs. “Over the Hill” and “May You Never” (a track which should be a singalong household staple across this island) are more conventionally folky and ground the album’s expansive soundscape in Martyn’s songwriter roots. Whether or not the array of sonic snapshots works for you as an album will depend on how much you focus on the actual songwriting on offer here - and on this front Solid Air is an utter triumph. Martyn’s polarising slurred vocal style presents another obstacle to negotiate. For me, it’s fitting that this album stand as an homage to Martyn’s late friend Nick Drake. Because not many besides the latter are capable of forcibly wringing every ounce of emotion out of each vocal line. Given the luxury of half stars, I’d give this a 4 1/2 rating, but a musician as influential as John Martyn deserves better than that.

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Fri Oct 21 2022
5

A very classy album that sounds complete. There's nothing missing here. Even the sparseness of the music doesn't sound awkward. There's space for the songs to breathe. I'm never sure if Solid Air is a summer or autumn record. Either way, it carries you through with a very warm feeling throughout. The bass sounds lovely through the analogue production. Martyn's voice could break down and cry at any moment. He just runs with the full spectre of emotions from the downbeat title track, and then straight into Over the Hill. May You Never is the complete F-IT song. Superb.

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Wed Oct 26 2022
5

Never heard of this guy before, it's nice

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Sat Nov 12 2022
5

How did I miss this? Incredibly good. Funky and rustic at once. Great vibe, stellar voice.

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Sat Nov 19 2022
5

This was actually a gift

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Sat Dec 17 2022
5

absolutely incredible. i had never heard of this man before last night but i liked almost every song on the album. the first album that i listened to here that made me search out more of the artist’s music

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Sat Dec 31 2022
5

My heart jumped when I saw this pop up as it's a favourite of mine. Heavily stylised and bound up with the whole scene back in early to middle 70s. Folky and Jazzy it's more upbeat and musically almost beyond compare. I love Nick Drake (who John wrote Solid Air for) and Roy Harper but John is not far behind in my affection. This is a solid 5.

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Sat Jan 14 2023
5

Om du låter titelspåret spela i bakgrunden medan du och din dejt konverserar och tittar varandra djupt i ögonen ska du behöva göra bort dig TOTALT för att hon inte ska bli sugen. John Martyn är din ideala wingman. Se bara till att hon inte lyssnar allt för mycket på texten, då den är skriven till den deprimerade Nick Drake; det kan sabba stämningen. Men, ni vill båda ha något mer, något snabbare. Ni dricker hårdare. Och sånt. Ni vill 'Over The Hill'. Senare föreslår du en promenad på fälten utanför staden. 'Don't Want to Know' är en mörk stjärnhimmel utanför de störande ljusen. Den stjärnklara natthimlen börjar sedan pulsera och blinka i rött blått grönt gult, 'I'd Rather Be the Devil' är en psykedelisk mardröm, neurotisk och stressad. Covern av denna Skip James-låt visar att John Martyn har mer i sig än simpla bluesfolklåtar. Frukta icke, för 'Go Down Easy' är den mjuka filten som sänker sig över dig när trippen börjar lägga sig. Filten som ger dig krafter, för du ska upp igen! 'Dreams By The Sea' är igång, skaka på din kropp som en epileptiker! Svettiga efter dansen blir ni sentimentala, ni sätter er och du berättar för henne precis hur du känner. Du vet hur du ska göra, John Martyn har ju visat det för dig i 'May You Never'. Ni reser på er och vandrar vidare. Ni pratar om var ni ska just i natt, men ni båda vet att ni menar hela livet. 'The Man in the Station' spelas. Var ni hamnade? Lyssna på 'The Easy Blues' om du undrar. Dörren är låst men väggarna skakar. Vad finns mer att tillägga efter en natt som denna? Du faller ned på knä, du är numera för evigt i John Martyns grepp. Han är Gud, han är världen. Han är du, du är han.

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Mon Jan 16 2023
5

I like this album. Reminds me of something I would listen to while walking in nature. Some trippy tracks on here, but they were all groovy enough to be consumable in a lot of environments. Would listen to again.

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Mon Jan 23 2023
5

Awesome

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Fri Oct 23 2020
4

Whattawow

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Thu Jan 07 2021
4

Surprisingly great folk album with some psychedelic elements

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Mon Oct 05 2020
4

Not half bad! A precursor to soft folk rock singer songwriters like Jack Johnson and Citizen Cope. Something I could see myself coming back to.

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Sun Feb 07 2021
4

Great album that is genre bending and never boring. Dilling into folk, pop, rock, jazz, blues and doing it all great

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Thu Jan 21 2021
4

Sweet marriage of folk and jazz.

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Tue Jan 26 2021
4

Sweet bass

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Sun May 23 2021
4

very very good

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Fri Jan 15 2021
4

Folk to funk to folk.

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Thu Feb 11 2021
4

Very nice. Kind of cozy and relaxing.

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Tue Feb 02 2021
4

Rich sound- both guitar and voice. I liked the 5 songs I listened to. Would listen again. Didn’t feel dated.

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Tue Feb 23 2021
4

Não é muito bom, mas eu gostei. Tem clima de surf rock.

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Wed Mar 31 2021
4

Dreams by the Sea feels like I'm in the start of Dirty Harry. Dripping with 70s cop movie. Liked it way more on the second listen.

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Thu Jan 14 2021
4

Hella funky. Great album.

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Fri Jan 29 2021
4

Great introduction to John Martyn, I will definitely be adding him to my rotation. Excellent guitar and good ambient sounds mixed with folky tunes/lyrics. Highlights: -Over The Hill -Go Down Easy -The Easy Blues

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Wed Apr 21 2021
4

Very nice.

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Tue Mar 09 2021
4

surprisingly pleasant for music that is not my style

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Tue Mar 09 2021
4

I feel mixed about this album. I mostly like it, but there’s stuff that sort of annoys me on it, like I can only understand what he’s saying about half the time.

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Sun Jan 17 2021
4

Wide-ranging and really interesting listen throughout. Reminiscent of Nick Drake, but more ambitious and harder hitting.

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Thu Feb 18 2021
4

holy crap this album came out of left field and i loved it! the soothing songs mixed with the longing, hard-to-swallow and well crafted lyrics and composition made for an amazing listen.

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Wed Jun 16 2021
4

Good vibes. Bounces between acoustic blues to funky jazz. Deff an album I would throw on for certain moods.

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Mon Jul 05 2021
4

Really cool album. Slick folk guitar and interesting vocals. 8/10

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Fri Jan 15 2021
4

Folksy Nick Drake Vibes Bluesy, jazzy, folksy in parts. Upbeat but sad.

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Thu Jan 14 2021
4

Gritty and moody. Really vibe-y album that is worth another listen to. Especially ‘The Easy Blues’ and ‘Go Down Easy’

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Tue Jan 26 2021
4

Really enjoyed

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Tue Jan 26 2021
4

Liked it.

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Sun Feb 07 2021
4

Solid album. Fantastic acoustic guitar playing. He plays it almost like it’s a percussion instrument. I enjoyed the double bass on the album and the overall production. Good album!

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Tue Feb 16 2021
4

1973, folk Rock, folk Jazz, folk, Chilliger vibe, paar Lieder die eher einen traurigen klang haben sind einfach banger

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Fri Feb 05 2021
4

Very mellow. Enjoyed listening to this. Like a male Joni Mitchel at times.

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Mon Jun 14 2021
4

Folk-rock-jazz.

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Wed Mar 17 2021
4

Guter Typ der seine zwischen verschlafenerer Melancholie und barbituratiger Verwaschenheit unentschlossene Stimme über psych-jazzige Stücke auslegt, wie der Dude seinen Teppich. Ein vergleichbar freier, kauziger Geselle könnte in Ryley Walker gefunden sein, dessen Kombo ebenfalls aus der Jazz Szene zusammengesucht ist und dem Sound eine handmade Wärme verpasst. 4.2

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