John Martyn

Classics

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Any longtime John Martyn fan can look at the track listing of this two-CD set and agree that yes, most of these songs are John Martyn classics. But for those who loved him in his '70s period, when there was a wonderful rolling edge to his music by his mixing of folk with jazz, that's as far as the approval will extend. The songs might be great, but these performances of them definitely aren't classics. They come from the late '80s and '90s (many from the No Little Boy and Couldn't Love You More sessions) when he revisited his older material with a new band, and decided to place it all firmly in the middle of the road. It's not terrible -- the playing is good, and the songs still have class -- but it's enough to make any hardcore fan cry and wonder whatever happened to Martyn. Even the presence of Levon Helm on a version of Utah Phillips' "Rock Salt And Nails" does nothing to put backbone into this. It's sad to say, but what there is here is simply a lot of smooth jazz, dinner music for people who don't really care about music. If you want to know what Martyn could do before he lost the plot, buy the Sweet Little Mysteries compilation. Much of the same material, but it's like watching a movie go from black and white to Technicolor.

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