Released in 2001 as the third in a John Martyn "Collectors Series," Live at the Bottom Line, New York 1983 highlights a stripped-down version of the excellent band featured on his live 1983 release, Philentropy. Along with Alan Thomson on bass and keyboards and Jeff Allen on drums, Martyn is in fine form both vocally and instrumentally throughout the 11 tracks recorded in the spring of 1983 at the N.Y.C. club. The early '80s had seen Martyn setting aside the acoustic guitar, which had been a staple both live and on record throughout the bulk of the previous decade, for the exclusively electric, band-oriented sound that is presented on this disc. As is evidenced here, the experiments that he began in the '70s seemed to reach a compelling peak during this period -- possibly his most productive and interesting -- with his effects-driven electric guitar to the forefront. His guitar breaks on tracks such as "Root Love" (the oldest original presented here) and the more recent "Lookin' On" are truly inspired. If the performances on Live at the Bottom Line are first-rate, the sound quality isn't anywhere near that high standard. The recording is somewhat washed-out, as well as ever so slightly distorted at times, which gives it the feel of an average bootleg and is enough to place it down on the list of recommended records in Martyn's catalog. Still, hardcore fans should find enough here, especially with the inclusion of the hard to find "Anna" (a song based on his own "Small Hours" that was composed for the 1978 Australian film In Search of Anna), to overlook the somewhat inferior sound. Others simply looking for a live representation of John Martyn from this stage in his career will want to check out the terrific aforementioned Philentropy before purchasing Live at the Bottom Line.
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AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach