Thursday, 18 March 2010

“Ain’t No Saint” by JOHN MARTYN. A Review of the 2008 Universal 4CD Box Set.

"…It’s All For The Love Of You…”

September 2008’s “Ain’t No Saint” 4CD box set offers up 61 tracks across a 40-year career (over 30 are previously unreleased). The 36-page booklet is a bit slapdash with regard to exacting details – so I’ve deciphered all the info contained within and without - and can now provide the following detailed breakdown for Universal-Island 530 798-7:

Disc 1 (75:51 minutes):

1. Fairy Tale Lullaby (from “London Conversation”, 1967)
2. Sing A Song Of Summer (from “The Tumbler”, 1968)
3. Stormbringer (from “Stormbringer”, 1970) John and Beverley Martyn
4. Tree Green (from “The Road To Ruin”, 1970) John and Beverley Martyn
5. Head And Heart (from “Solid Air”, 1973)
6. In The Evening (a “Solid Air outtake, also on the 2009 2CD DELUXE EDITION)
7. Solid Air (an Alternate version, also on the 2009 2CD DELUXE EDITION)
8. Keep On (a “Solid Air outtake, also on the 2009 2CD DELUXE EDITION)
9. The Glory Of Love (a “Solid Air outtake, also on the 2009 2CD DELUXE EDITION)
10. Go Down Easy (from “Solid Air”, 1973)
11. Ain’t No Saint (an “Inside Out” outtake, an instrumental)
12. Fine Lines (from “Inside Out”, 1973)
13. Eight More Miles (a “Sunday’s Child” outtake)
14. Call Me Crazy (from “Sunday’s Child”, 1975)
15. Black Man At The Shoulder (a “One World” outtake)
16. All For The Love Of You (a “One World” outtake)
17. Working It Out (a “One World” outtake)
18. Couldn’t Love You More (from “One World”, 1977)
6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15 to 17 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 2 (79:29 minutes):

1. Advertisement (30-second Radio Spot for the March 1977 ‘Best Of’ Island Records compilation “So Far So Good”)
2. Small Hours – Instrumental [originally known as “Space Peace”] (a 10:18 minutes Alternate version, also on the 2004 2CD DELUXE EDITION of “One World”]
3. In Search Of Anna [credited on the box as “Anna”] (a 1979 Australian-only 7” single on Island Records K7450. Theme to a movie of the same name)
4. Lookin’ On (from “Grace And Danger”, 1980)
5. Amsterdam (from “Glorious Fool”, 1981)
6. Hung Up (from “Well Kept Secret”, 1982)
7. Acid Rain (from “Sapphire”, 1984)
8. Who Believes In Angels (from “Piece By Piece”, 1986)
9. The Apprentice (from “The Apprentice”, 1990)
10. Hole In The Rain (from “Cooltide”, 1991)
11. One World (alternate version from the re-recordings compilation “Couldn’t Love You More”, 1992)
12. Sunday’s Child (a 1992 re-recording, an Alternate version)
13. Carmine (from “And.”, 1996)
14. The Sky Is Crying (an Elmore James cover from “The Church With One Bell”, 1998)
15. So Sweet (from “Glasgow Walker”, 2000)
16. Back To Marseilles (from “On The Cobbles”, 2004)
1 to 3 and 12 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 3 (77:37 minutes):

1. Bless The Weather (Live at the Empire Theatre, Edinburgh, 22 August 1973)
2. Make No Mistake (Live at the Empire Theatre, Edinburgh, 22 August 1973)
3. So Much In Love With You (Live at Leeds University, 13 February 1975)
4. Spencer The Rover (Live at Leeds University, 13 February 1975)
5. My Baby Girl (Live at Leeds University, 13 February 1975)
6. You Can Deliver (Live at The Rainbow Theatre, London, 16 March 1975)
7. Solid Air (Live at The Rainbow Theatre, London, 16 March 1975)
8. I’d Rather Be The Devil (Devil Got My Woman) (a Skip James cover, Live at The Rainbow Theatre, London, 16 March 1975)
9. Outside In (Live at The Rainbow Theatre, London, 16 March 1975)
10. Advertisement (18-second Radio Spot for a Sunday Night concert in Birmingham)
11. Big Muff (Live at The Rainbow Theatre, London, 21 November 1977)
12. One Day Without You (Live at The Rainbow Theatre, London, 21 November 1977)
1 to 12 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 4 (79:44 minutes):

1. Dealer (Live at The Rainbow Theatre, London, 21 November 1977)
2. Smiling Stranger (Live at The Rainbow Theatre, London, 21 November 1977)
3. Johnny Too Bad (Live at BBC Bristol for “A Little Night Music” Television Show, 12 August 1981)
4. Hurt In Your Heart (Live at BBC Bristol for “A Little Night Music” Television Show, 12 August 1981)
5. John Wayne (Live at The Montreaux Jazz Festival, 18 July 1986)
6. Angeline (Live at The Montreaux Jazz Festival, 18 July 1986)
7. Mad Dog Days (Live at The Montreaux Jazz Festival, 18 July 1986)
8. The Moment (Live at The Town & Country Club, London, 12 November 1986)
9. Fisherman’s Dream (Live at The Town & Country Club, London, 12 November 1986)
10. Sweet Little Mystery (Live at BBC Television Show “Later With Jools Holland”, 5 November 1992)
11. May You Never (Live at the BBC Television Show “Later With Jools Holland”, 5 November 1992)
12. Step It Up (Live at the BBC Television Show “Later With Jools Holland”, 1 June 1996)
13. Sunshine’s Better (Live at the “Andy Kershaw Show” for BBC Radio 1, 12 August 1996)
14. On For The Road (Live at BBC Television Show “Later With Jools Holland”, 14 May 2004)
15. Over The Hill (Live at the BBC’s “Radio 2 Folk Awards” Show, 6 February 2008)
1 to 15 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED; 15 features JOHN PAUL JONES of LED ZEPPELIN on Mandolin

The first 2 CDs provide a career retrospective of at least one song from all 22 of his studio albums (1967 to 2004) while Discs 3 and 4 are entirely made up of live and unreleased performances (1973 to 2008). The whole set has been remastered by PASCHAL BYRNE who did such a beautiful job on 2009’s DELUXE EDITION of “Solid Air” (see separate review) – and the audio quality here is equal to that gem – especially on the earlier more folky tunes – warm and airy – just a gorgeous listen.

JOHN HILLARBY, long-time archivist and friend of Martyn has written the liner notes and cherry-picked the tracks. And while some of the choices are inspired (the rarely heard “Hung Up” from Well Kept Secret), others left me cold – even baffled. Why the ordinary “Back To Marseilles” from 2004’s “On The Cobbles” when you could have ended disc 2 with “Goodnight Irene” with Mavis Staples. And do we need yet another 1992 alternate take of “Solid Air” (even if it is previously unreleased) when the live version of it on 1981’s “Philanthropy” trashes it so completely. And why not decent tracks off “Piece By Piece” like “Lonely Love” or the title track or even a remaster of “Tight Connection To My Heart” – a rare non-album Dylan cover version on the “Angeline” CD single from 1986? Box sets are made for these sorts of things.

But there are gobsmacking gems on here to entice even the most hardened cynic; the ultra-rare and excellent “In Search Of Anna” – an Australian-only 7” single from 1979 finally gets a CD release - while “In The Evening” and “All For The Love Of You” (lyrics above) represent truly beautiful outtakes from “Solid Air” and “One World” respectively. And I never tire of “Hole In The Rain”, “Carmine” or “So Sweet”. His Nineties and 2000’s stuff is superlative and never given enough room to shine.

Disc 3 and 4 are a mixed bag of the lovely (deliciously delicate versions of “Angeline” and “Sunshine’s Better”) running alongside the indulgent (13 minutes of “Inside Out”) and the manic, but strangely powerful “John Wayne”. And these live tracks also show a side to Martyn that needed serious acknowledgment – his ability with a full band to morph his older folk-acoustic songs into full-on modernized soulful versions which were often just as good as the originals – just updated in a fashion. It ends with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin joining him on Mandolin on “Over The Hill” at the BBC’s Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2008 – you can feel the audience’s affection.

So there you have it – although “Ain’t No Saint” is sometimes sloppy and disappointing in places, it’s utterly captivating and life affirming too. And with his sad passing in early 2009, you’ll be glad you invested in it – and left after the last joyful track with a terrible feeling of true greatness lost...

Rest in peace you lovely man.

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