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John Martyn & Danny Thompson Germany 1986 Review

Live. Released 2001.  

BBC Review

strangely intense and, simultaneously, so laid-back as to be almost horizontal...

Chris Jones 2002

The late-sixties London music community gave birth to a wealth of beautiful and diverse hybrids. The combination of a jazz scene surrounding venues such as Ronnie Scott's, and a folky, singer-songwriter enclave supported by clubs such as Bunjy's was never the most likely of fusions but, as this CD testifies, the music made by such a pairing still pulses as strongly today as it did over three decades ago. John Martyn and Danny Thompson have always jumped genres with ease - Thompson from his early days with Tubby Hayes, through The Pentangle to his more traditional acoustic work with Richard Thompson, and Martyn's friend Nick Drake - while Martyn himself has covered the bases from blues and folk through to reggae and even the occasional show tune.

The pair started their professional relationship in 1970 and this record of a gig from 1986 demonstrates how the odd couple could still breathe fire into these ageing classics. A crowd-pleasingly unvaried set list had become Martyn's stock in trade by the mid-eighties - heavily relying on his 1970s highlights from Solid Air, Bless The Weather and One World - but the intimate setting of his smokey, slurred voice and Thompson's almost abstract double bass truly cements the timeless quality of this work. Both men had spent the previous decade as notorious hell-raisers but their experience only heightens the plaintive, almost spiritual quality of the work.

Martyn's elegy to Drake, "Solid Air", is here in all its mournful glory as is the ambient soulfulness of "One World" and Skip James' edgy "I'd Rather Be The Devil". All numbers managing to be both strangely intense and, simultaneously, so laid-back as to be almost horizontal. The sound quality, while a little rough, compliments the night club atmosphere - a snapshot of a relaxed evening in the company of two genial gents of the road. As the man says: may they never lay their heads down without a hand to hold...

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