Thursday, March 5, 2009
John Martyn was originally an English folkie active in the late 60s/early 70s scene that birthed Pentangle (bassist Danny Thompson was a lifelong collaborator) and Nick Drake (one of Martyn's best friends). At some point in the early 70s, however, Martyn discovered electronics and began experimenting with phase shifters, fuzz pedals and the Echoplex. Martyn's experimentation came to full fruition on 1973's Inside Out which combined his virtuosic acoustic guitar technique with cutting edge electronic innovations. The first track on that album ("Fine Lines") is a subtle, quiet beginning that embodies the record's seemingly idiosyncratic combination. Martyn's slurred vocal and acoustic guitar continue throughout the entire song, but an electrified guitar solo (at about 1:35) lets us know that this isn't exactly Pink Moon.
Martyn's experimentation with spacy electronics continued throughout the decade. He even collaborated with Lee "Scratch" Perry on the seminal "Big Muff." Martyn's interest in world music and electrified jazz is particularly evident on "Root Love" from Sunday's Child (1974), a track which (to my mind, anyway) shows the influence of Miles Davis' On the Corner album. Also, I absolutely adore this song's gritty guitar riff.
Sadly, Martyn died earlier this year. He will be missed. Take a listen:
"Fine Lines" - John Martyn
"Root Love" - John Martyn
Also, check out this video of Martyn performing "I'd Rather Be the Devil." Note his rhythmic use of the Echoplex: