John Martyn

One World

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After Sunday's Child, John Martyn took an extended break from studio recording. By late 1975, feeling he was close to going "completely round the bend," he had also stopped touring. To put some distance between himself and the pressures of the business and to recoup his creative energies, he went to Jamaica. There, after meeting dub producer Lee "Scratch" Perry, Martyn sat in on sessions by other artists and contributed to Burning Spear's Man in the Hills. Martyn returned to the U.K. reinvigorated and began recording One World in summer 1977. Produced by Island boss Chris Blackwell and featuring Dave Pegg, Morris Pert, John Stevens, Danny Thompson, and Steve Winwood, among others, One World combines the experimental tendencies of 1973's Inside Out and the more conventional song structures of Sunday's Child. While tracks like "Couldn't Love You More," "Smiling Stranger," and "Certain Surprise" display some continuity with the rootsy, jazzy folk-rock of Martyn's previous albums, this record has a stronger commercial feel than his earlier work, crossing over into pop territory. Especially memorable in that regard is the electrified swagger of "Big Muff," a number co-written by Perry that would become one of Martyn's live staples. But One World's understated explorations of mood are even more compelling; the experimental nature of dub -- of which Perry was a legendary exponent -- clearly resonated with Martyn. Since the early '70s, he had displayed a keen ear for sonic manipulation, using effects like Echoplex and a phase shifter to craft drifting, hypnotic textures. Here, the lazy title track and the synth-pulsing "Small Hours" exemplify Martyn's knack for mesmerizing, smoky grooves. Those looser, atmospheric numbers notwithstanding, most of One World signals the more slick pop direction John Martyn would take in the '80s starting with Grace & Danger (and with increasingly mixed results). [In 2005, Island released a Deluxe Edition of One World that included five live tracks and 10 alternate versions of songs from the initial release.]

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