John Martyn

Heaven & Earth

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

The late John Martyn was a legend in British music circles, a phenomenal guitarist and arranger whose influence has been acknowledged by everyone from Bob Marley and Eric Clapton to Brian Eno and the Edge, and whose approach to soundcraft helped lay the foundation for an entire generation of trip-hop artists and DJs. Heaven and Earth is sort of of a tribute album; it consists of unfinished tracks that Martyn was working on at the time of his death in 2009, some of them bluesy, some reggae-inflected or jazzy, but all of them imbued with a powerful sense of space and an expansive approach to melody. "Heel of the Hunt" is among the most spacious and powerful tracks on this album, while "Stand Amazed" hints strongly at reggae while guitars, clavinets, and soulful backing vocalists respond with more of an R&B vibe. "Bad Company" is a bluesy rocker; "Gambler" is a slow-rocking blues. Amazing as the music consistently is, however, it can't overcome this album's primary liability, which is Martyn's atrocious singing. Only rarely does Martyn seem actually to be hitting any notes; instead he growls and grunts and declaims his lyrics in a deep, gruff voice that makes him sound very often like a drunken bear. "Could've Told You Before I Met You" matches voice to groove most effectively, but on just about every other song Martyn's singing is like a wet and scratchy wool blanket laid over a table set with delicious food on glittering china. None of this makes him any less of a musical genius; it's just that sometimes geniuses should let other people do the singing.

blue highlight denotes track pick