John Martyn – Over The Hill

• “Over The Hill” set to a John Martyn slideshow. Thanks to VinyleEnamored.

7.7 “Great Folk from England”

From his sixth album “Solid Air” (Island Records ILPS-9226) released in 1973.

My album review:

Arriving in February ’73 was “Solid Air”, already the sixth new-music album from the classy 24-year-old songwriter. By and large, the album don’t wanna know about evil – it only wants to know about love, but isn’t afraid to acknowledge problems and seek to help, exemplified on the title-track which opens the set, a thoughtful reach-out to his depressed buddy, Nick Drake. Clearly, he’s a good-egg – I like him. The overall tone of the set is positive, with the vibe mellow. Pentangle’s Danny Thompson plays a key role throughout with his big double-bass and bendy notes which intuitively wrap themselves seamlessly around John’s exquisitely picked acoustic guitar. Another key element for me is Martyn’s voice which exists half of the time in a hummable frame, almost blurring the lines between notes and words – voice as instrument. It’s a great trick and really adds to the relaxed atmosphere. “Over The Hill” is an early album highlight, a universally appealing song about going home to your babies and your wife; that house on the horizon sounds like a simple heaven. Almost celebratory, a full gang are on hand here to share the joy: Richard Thompson (mandolin); Simon Nicol (autoharp) and Sue Draheim (violin) – it’s a sure-fire winner. “I’d Rather Be The Devil” (originally done as “Devil Got My Woman” by Skip James in 1931) is a surprise cover – the only one on the album – and takes a proggish detour, heavy on a funky wah-wah tip. This confuses me – and I welcome that feeling. Somehow, it works as a lead-in to the album’s second highlight track, “Go Down Easy”, a piece which is absolutely representative of the whole set, chilled-out to the max and made for love. There was a time when I’d have run a 4½ minute mile to escape from an LP tagged folk-jazz – as I’ve subsequently discovered, it’s not always wise to pre-judge an album by a genre tag.

You can check out the rest of my album reviews for 1973 here.

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