Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The glorious puzzle of John Martyn's SOLID AIR

After a bit of a break, the Midnight Ramble is back with the soundtrack of this blog...


I was put onto this record a few weeks ago. I have never heard of John Martyn before, but I was intrigued enough by the way he was pitched to me that I immediately went on Youtube to check it out.

I am not a musician and my knowledge of folk music is not that deep, so bear with me as I attempt to encapsulate what makes this album so great.

First, the title track. A great mood setter. 'Solid Air' establishes a haunting, jazz-infused tone that seeps into your brain and just sits there for weeks, simmering like a good steak and marinating your subconscious in its mysterious melancholia.

Apparently, it was originally written by Martyn as a tribute to his friend Nick Drake. Martyn claimed the song had a hidden meaning only the two them could truly understand. It's an enigmatic track and one of my favourites off the album.

'I'd Rather Be the Devil' is a blend of a jazzy folk tune and and an instrumental -- it feels like two tracks bolted together. I lose a little patience with it toward the end (okay, let's wrap things up!), but it's still really good.

The other track that really stands out is 'Dreams By The Sea', which is the closest thing to seventies funk on the record. It's really weird, and almost feels like a dark joke. Like the other tracks, I feel like I'll need a few more spins before I can begin to decipher their secrets. Even though it is more 'danceable' than anything else on the album, what makes this track great is that it still feels of a piece with the rest of the tracks, and maintains the surreal, vaguely unsettling mood established by 'Solid Air'.

I really recommend this album. If you are a fan of jazz or Tim Buckley, there you will love John Martyn and Solid Air.  

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