John Martyn

Live at the Town and Country Club 1986

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By 1985 John Martyn was no stranger to live albums -- there'd been Live at Leeds, from a decade before, and 1983's Philenthropy. This, though, introduced a new band. Relatively longtime cohort Alan Thomson on bass, Fos Patterson, who'd toured as a duo with Martyn, on keyboards, and percussionist Danny Cummings. It was a daring move, introducing such an electric outfit at the Cambridge Folk Festival, but there seemed to be no problem -- in part, perhaps, because the focus was on Martyn's more popular older material. However, he kicks off with a full-on version of "Johnny Too Bad" that takes no prisoners to announce his intentions, before delving into the wistful "Sweet Little Mystery" and the power of "Big Muff." Material from Solid Air, his best-loved disc, follows, although updated, but losing none of its loveliness. There's even a brief acoustic set, to show Martyn hasn't lost any of his abilities as a fingerpicker, before newer work rears its head, on "Mad Dog Days" -- dedicated to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher -- and "Fisherman's Dream." With such a band it would be pointless not to finish in a blaze of excess, which is exactly what "Dealer/Outside In" does. It's a fitting end to an excellent show, finally available on CD.

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