First Appeared at The Music Box, April 2004, Volume 11, #4
Written by John Metzger
Throughout his career, John Martyn has explored a myriad of musical styles, folding his experiments with worldly grooves from Jamaica, South America, and the Middle East into the usual array of blues, rock, folk, jazz, and soul. Recent years have seen the release of a variety his archival concert recordings, including And Live..., a two-disc outing that features material captured in 1996 in Carlisle, England (plus five additional songs recorded a decade earlier).
At the time, trip-hop had become a phenomenon in the music world, and Martyn had put his own stamp on the genre with And. Despite the slurred vocals and mesmerizing grooves on And Live..., however, the album is far closer in spirit to a collaboration among Sting, Van Morrison, and Eric Clapton. Indeed, Martyn sounds like an old bluesman as he growls his way through the funky Step It Up and the ethereal John Wayne, and saxophonist Gerry Underwood sounds like a clone of Branford Marsalis, blissfully sailing above the ensembleís hypnotic percussive grooves.
The problem with And Live..., however, is that much of the material plods along at a similar pace, alternating between mid-tempo and downright sluggish ballads. As a result, one song begins to sound like the next, and itís only when Martyn delivers his vocals with fiery passion (Fishermanís Dream) or engages Underwood in a snarling exchange (Yes We Can) that one is awakened to the power of his music.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box