Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

John Martyn – Heaven and Earth

The late great John Martyn has just had his final recording released in the form of the album “Heaven and Earth”.

The nine songs on the album, which includes a version of the Phil Collins song “Can’t Turn Back The Years” featuring Collins himself, were never planned as being the next Martyn release as his hope had been to work and record with jazz musician Pharoah Saunders, sadly this was never to be.

Instead it has been left to long time friend and producer Jim Tullio, and Gary Pollitt as a co-producer to put Martyn’s “last musical testament in order”, assembling the posthumous album from an assortment of the singer-songwriter’s vocal and guitar takes. “John was a genius,” Tullio said. “He made music more naturally than anyone I’ve ever met, as effortlessly as the way you and I speak.”

Martyn’s connection to Collins came out of their experiences with divorce. Thirty years ago, both were reeling from the ends of their first marriages; Martyn even “crashed” at Collins’s home, and the former Genesis drummer produced Martyn’s 1981 album Glorious Fool. “John wanted to do one of Phil’s songs to repay him,” Tullio said. Before his death, Martyn had begun work on “Can’t Turn Back the Years”, taken from Collins’s 1993 solo album, Both Sides. “After John passed, I spoke with Phil and he really wanted to sing on the track,” Tullio said. “[Phil] said he had always wanted John to record one of his songs. You can hear the emotion in their voices.”

Despite the kudos of the above the heart of the album—felt on tracks like “Gambler” and “Bad Company”—beats in Martyn’s intuitive, idiosyncratic sense of the blues, filtered through his earthy feel for roots- and jazz-inspired songwriting and his raw voice.

“Bad Company” (not the song of the same name by the band of the same name) is in fact my favourite track on the album and would be suited to the treatment like that of Maggie Bell brings to R&B.

 

Fans of the great man won’t be disappointed with the album but will as always miss what still might have been as ‘Heaven and Earth’ may not have the memorable strength of earlier work but it does allow Martyn’s voice to slide and slur and giggle along the simple melody with especially on the title track’s declaration of love that does recall so many of his powerful romantic declarations: ‘I’ll move heaven and earth just to be with you’ and the sax slurs its groove too.

To buy the album click HERE

 

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May 31, 2011 - Posted by | Cover Stories, New Music, New Releases, Video | , ,

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