Tuesday, 5 July 2016

"Sunday's Child" by JOHN MARTYN (2005 Island Masters 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry of his 1975 LP on Island Records...





"...I Believe You Can Make Me Feel Better..." 

In a 10-year period between 1967 and 1977 - John Martyn (onew of the UK's finest Folk-Soul troubadours) made so many albums that it was all too easy to 'not notice' the rough diamonds amongst the polished paste.

Most music fans will be aware of his acknowledged masterpieces - 1973's "Solid Air" and 1977's "One World" – but they miss out on the truly lovely Folk simplicity of his October 1967 Mono debut "London Conversation" (see review) and the gorgeous Nick Drake vibe that flows off his equally forgotten November 1971 album "Bless The Weather". But there’s also "Sunday's Child" - his unfairly ignored LP from early 1975. Featuring some of his loveliest songs - "You Can Discover", "Lay It All Down" and a spine-tingling rendition of an English Traditional "Spencer The Rover" - sat alongside Jazzier pieces like "Call Me Crazy" and the straight-up Pop of "Clutches" – the whole record is a wonderful fusion of trippy Acoustic warmth, Funky-Rock and Echoplex Folk-Soul. There is only one bum note for me (a misplaced Rock song called "Root Love") – but apart from that – it’s another gem from JM...

Recorded in August 1974 at Island's Studios in Hammersmith and released January 1975 - few people outside of diehard fans seemed to heed its release. It was his sixth studio LP (not counting his own privately pressed live album "Live At Leeds") for the ever patient Island Records but the public just weren’t buying in sufficient numbers to make a real break through. Hell even something as obviously brilliant and tuneful as the "One World" LP that hit the UK shop racks in November 1977 would have to wait until February 1978 to chart - and even then it was for only one week at No. 54. 

Martyn toured and promoted the "Sunday's Child" album extensively - joined on stage most nights by his Double Bass playing rhythm section and integral piece of his sound - Danny Thompson. Even Paul Kossoff of Free legendarily pulled out his axe on occasion on that tour (struggling as he was with drug addiction even then). Musically "Sunday's Child" saw Iain David McGeachy in a really good place - married with a daughter and another child on the way (his son would be born after the album’s release in May 1975) - his contented family vibe oozing off tracks like the gorgeous "Lay It On Down" (lyrics from it title this review) and "You Can Discover". 

Time to get to the CD Reissue details...

UK released November 2005 - "Sunday's Child" by JOHN MARTYN on Island Masters IMCD 323 (Barcode 602498307359) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster that offers the 11-track 1975 LP bolstered up with 7 Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (63:16 minutes):

1. One Day Without You
2. Lay It On Down
3. Root Love
4. My Baby Girl
5. Sunday's Child
6. Spencer The Rover
7. Clutches [Side 2]
8. The Message
9. Satisfied Mind
10. You Can Discover
11. Call Me Crazy
Tracks 1 to 11 are his 8th studio album "Sunday's Child" - released January 1975 in the UK and USA on Island Records ILPS 9296 (same catalogue number for both countries - it didn't chart in either). Produced by JOHN MARTYN - all songs written by JM except "Spencer The Rover" and "Satisfied Mind" which are Traditional Song cover versions.

BONUS TRACKS (all PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED):
12. Ellie Rhee - recorded 26 August 1974 at Island Studios in Hammersmith, London
13. Satisfied Mind (First Mix) - recorded 25 August 1974 at Island Studios in Hammersmith, London
14. One Day Without You
15. You Can Discover
16. My Baby Girl
17. The Message
18. Spencer The Rover - Tracks 14 to 18 recorded 7 January 1975 for a BBC Radio 1 'John Peel Session'

Musicians:
JOHN MARTYN - Guitar, Moog, Clavinet and Lead Vocals (Duet Vocals with Beverly Martyn on "My Baby Girl")
JOHN "Rabbit" BUNDRICK - Piano, Kesh Sathie and Tablas
DANNY THOMPSON - Double Bass
AL ANDERSON - Electric Bass on "One Day Without You"
TERRY WILSON - Electric Bass on "Clutches"
LIAM GENOCKEY - Drums
TONY BRAUNAGEL - Drums on "Clutches"

Compiled for CD by Mark Powell of Esoteric Recordings - the 12-page colour booklet has new liner notes from noted Martyn expert JOHN HILLARBY. They go into a brief history of his career with Island Records (who stuck with him to 1986) - the before, during and after of the album and his sad demise in 2009 - as beloved as ever by fans and those within the music business. There are photos of Martyn in various live poses (usually with his Acoustic Guitar) and a fabulous new PASCHAL BYRNE Remaster that makes everything sing. This is a beautiful sounding CD...and one that comes with genuinely excellent and exciting Bonus Tracks too.

The album opens on a great one-two sucker punch of winning melodies - "One Day Without You" and the immensely touching "Lay It All Down". John Martyn's style at this time had been honed right from 1971 through to "Solid Air" in 1973 - a sort of half Folk-half Jazz feel - all Acoustic Guitars heavily strummed while a funky rhythm section headed up by Upright Bass genius Danny Thompson. I love these songs (especially "Lay It All Down" where he sex-slurs that deep voice of his into a sensual drawl that would make audience knicker-elastic melt at ten paces. But then he does what he did on too many albums - he throws in something way too harsh and out of step with the other songs. In this case it's the brash and cynical Hard Rock of "Root Love" - a poor riffage tune that I can't abide even now - 41 years after the event. Side One thankfully gets rescued by a trio of sweethearts - a ballad to their daughter Mhairi (who was born February 1971 and is pictured on the rear sleeve of the original vinyl LP), the sexy Funk of "Sunday's Child" and the gorgeous Traditional acoustic amble of "Spencer The Rover" - a song he wrestled out of Robin Dransfield in the mid Sixties at the Glasgow Folk Centre when he accosted the Guitarist post gig and forced him to teach a 16-year old Martyn the song.

Side 2 opens with the Little Feat boogie funk of "Clutches" - and again - even though it's good - it feels slightly out of place on a largely mellow album. Back to business with "The Message" that incorporates the Traditional Folk ditty "Marie's Wedding" into its lovely rhythms and lyrics. Written by Joe 'Red Hayes and Jack Rhoads - Country superstar Porter Wagoner had a hit in 1955 on RCA Victor with "Satisfied Mind" - here Martyn slows it down into a creeping Blues song - a troubled mind longing for peace (a bit like himself I'm guessing). The Byrds, Dylan and Tim Hardin have covered “Satisfied Mind” amongst many others.

Fans adore "You Can Discover" - a great Martyn groove that turns up on Best Of's and Anthologies - and surely one of the LPs real highlights (the Remaster has brought out Bundrick's piano playing). It ends well. Just when you think you know the measure of the seven and half minute "Call Me Crazy" (Funk Rock) - about 4:20 minutes in - it suddenly grinds to an almost halt and you get an Acoustic three minutes of astonishing beauty. Plucked guitar strings rattle and shimmy - his Acoustic Guitar plugged into an echo chamber while Danny Thompson runs up and down the frets of his Double Bass caressing sliding refrains. It's like a precursor to the beautiful "Small Hours" eight-minute Echoplex and workout on "One World". Fabulous stuff...

Fans will flip for the truly gorgeous "Ellie Rhee" - an entirely Acoustic Folk song dating from the American Civil War with a properly lovely feel and melody. Hillarby reproduces its lyrics in the booklet on Page 10 and it should have replaced the awful "Root Love" on Side 1 in my books. The 'First Mix' of "Satisfied Mind" is superb too but I can hear why the released version was instead. The excellence continues with five recorded for John Peel's Radio 1 show in January 1975. Good news on all fronts - the Audio is shockingly good even if there is a little wobble here and there (especially on "The Message") and the performances (largely Acoustic) are thrilling. He slays "One Day Without You" as he plucks and slaps his Guitar's scratch plate. An equally pretty "You Can Discover" follows but an overloaded tape distortion does for a beautiful version of "Spencer The Rover" - a song that often made me cry and leaves you wondering how come no-one noticed this quality back in the day?

Would it have been different if he'd included "Ellie Rhee" and dropped the 'too heavy' "Root Love" - a song that confused listeners and killed the mood before it had a chance to blossom. Whatever way you look at it I've always felt "Sunday's Child" was a couple of whippets short of a Folk-Soul masterpiece and this wickedly good (and dirt cheap) CD only hammers that home.

"...As valiant a man as ever left home..." he sang on the beautiful "Spencer The Rover". Gorgeous and then some...be with the angels you songsmith hero...

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