The 1993 compilation “No Little Boy” has a convoluted history and this 2008 reissue of it requires some explanation too.
After the well-received but relative commercial failure of the “Piece By Piece” album in 1986, John Martyn found himself dropped by Island Records and without a contract. He then signed to a new UK label - Permanent Records - who issued two albums of new material - “The Apprentice” in 1990 and the wonderful “Cooltide” in 1991.
However, away in the USA at the time (and without his knowledge or permission), Permanent took a swathe of in-progress re-recordings of his old Island year’s material and naughtily released it as the compilation “Couldn’t Love You More” in October 1992 on PERM 9. Martyn was understandably furious and denounced it. But in a strange quirk of fate, the public largely embraced it (charted at 65) - and the album even opened up a whole new audience for him.
Back in the UK and determined to do it ‘properly’, he put out this 2nd compilation of re-recordings on PERM 14 in July 1993 and called it “No Little Boy” (a lyric from “Ways To Cry”). Seven of its 13 songs were NOT on the “Couldn’t Love You More” compilation and some of the other ‘duplicate’ titles turned out to be radically different versions too (even though it didn’t say this on the artwork)…
Which brings us to this March 2008 reissue; One World OW128CD is the original 13-track compilation upped by three bonus songs, the music is newly remastered and the booklet expanded and annotated better. It breaks down as follows (78:35 minutes)
1. Solid Air (originally on "Solid Air", February 1973)
2. Ways To Cry (originally on "Inside Out", October 1973)
3. Could've Been Me (originally on "Well Kept Secret", 1982)
4. Don’t Want To Know (originally on "Solid Air", February 1973)
5. Just Now (originally on "Bless The Weather", 1971)
6. One Day Without You (originally on "Sunday's Child", 1975)
7. Sweet Little Mystery (originally on "Grace & Danger", 1980)
8. Pascanel (originally on “Glorious Fool”, 1981)
9. Sunday’s Child (originally on "Sunday's Child", 1975)
10. Head & Heart (originally on "Bless The Weather", 1971)
11. Fine Lines (originally on "Inside Out", October 1973)
12. Bless The Weather (originally on "Bless The Weather", 1971)
13. Man In The Station (originally on "Solid Air", February 1973)
14. One World (originally on “One World”, 1977)
15. Rock, Salt And Nails (see Notes below)
16. Hole In The Rain (a REMIX of a track originally on “Cooltide”, 1991)
Notes: 2, 3 and 7 feature PHIL COLLINS on duet vocals, 2, 3 and 14 feature DAVID GILMOUR of PINK FLOYD on Guitar while LEVON HELM of THE BAND provides duet vocals on “Rock, Salt & Nails” (a cover version written by BRUCE ‘UTAH’ PHILLIPS)
Although the booklet doesn't advise who remastered the tapes, the website seems to say it was done by DALLAS SIMPSON – it’s far better than the 1993 version I’ve had all these years.
As you imagine, some of the re-recordings work and some don't. Some to my ears – are incredible – just as lovely as the originals, but more soulful (even if they are a bit over produced in places). Special mention should also go to PHIL COLLINS for his heartfelt vocal contributions - especially on "Ways To Cry" - it's a track where both their hurting personal lives seem to seep through their voices.
I derided the versions of "Head & Heart" and "Man In The Station" on the “Couldn’t Love You More” compilation, but the versions here are much better. “Fine Lines” is truly beautiful – my personal favorite - a fabulous version, while “Pascanel” gets a superb update with the girly vocals of Shaun Christopher and Rene Stewart and the piano work of Fred Nelson. The bonuses are exceptional too – the new version of “One World” is wicked as is the remix of a song I never tire of - “Hole In The Rain”. But ‘the’ piece is “Rock, Salt & Nails”, a cover version, which sees Martyn duet with Levon Helm of The Band to amazing effect – so, so good.
Both collections have been re-packaged to buggery by other labels since then - which hasn't helped - so fans have all but ignored them or forgotten them entirely. Personally - John Martyn could fart in a bottle - and I'd still want to hear it. Which is one of the reasons for this review - this lovely and muscular 2008 REMASTER of that 2nd set has finally brought out just how good many of these re-recordings were and still are. And I would urge fans and newcomers to give these re-makes another chance.
PS: see also reviews for the 2007 One World remasters of "The Apprentice" (1990) and "Cooltide" (1991), “Couldn't Love You More" (compilation from 1992), “Solid Air” DELUXE EDITION from 2009 and the live set "The Simmer Dim" (2008)