John Martyn In Session Review

Compilation. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

All John Martyn's BBC sessions between 1973 and 1978 on one CD...

Peter Marsh 2002

There's been an embarassment of riches for the hardcore John Martyn fan of late, and whaddya know, here's some more. In Session contains all the songs our John recorded for the Bob Harris and John Peel shows between 1973 and 1978, and though some of these performances are available elsewhere, this is an essential purchase for the committed fan.

Though consistency was (and is) never one of Martyn's strong points, it would seem that he did make a bit more of an effort when he was in front of a BBC microphone, judging by this set of performances. Most are solo; four tracks add the peerless double bass of Mr Danny Thompson, though annoyingly he's barely audible (what were the engineers thinking?).

Martyn's tendency to improvise means that even his most straightahead acoustic songs (like "May You Never" or "Spencer The Rover") have new life breathed into them every time he sings them. From the 1973 sessions "I'd Rather be The Devil" and "Outside In" (both mysteriously retitled here) take things further out with some typically cosmic guitar explorations; you get the sense that at this point in Martyn's career, each performance was as much about self discovery as anything else.

The set closes with the glorious "Small Hours", which sounds like it was recorded yesterday afternoon rather than nearly 30 years ago. Essential stuff from probably the most fruitful period in Martyn's career.

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