John Martyn

Late Night John

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As the title signifies, the raison d'ĂȘtre behind this compilation seems to be zeroing in on songs that find John Martyn in his mellower after-hours folk-blues-jazz moods. While the 16 tracks span the first couple of decades of his recording career (from 1967-1986), it shouldn't be regarded as a best-of or overview, as Martyn's been too prolific and stylistically restless for this to be representative of his work. Considering how stylistically (and qualitatively) erratic his albums have been, however, there's something to be said for an anthology that emphasizes particular facets of his sound, as this one does. It results in a collection that's more consistent than most Martyn records (compilations or otherwise), and does manage to include some of his better-known songs, such as "Stormbringer," "Bless the Weather," and "Solid Air." Generally there's a shift over the years from an acoustic folk-based approach -- the first song, 1967's "Ballad of an Elder Woman," strongly recalls Bert Jansch, while 1968's "Fly On Home" will find favor with those who enjoy Nick Drake -- to more sophisticated jazz-inflected arrangements. The last few cuts do start to verge on moving from mellow to mushy in their slickness. But generally the material -- all but the last three cuts hailing from 1967-1977 -- is strong and satisfying, and perhaps more accessible to the average pop listener than a more wide-ranging and extensive Martyn best-of.

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