Posts Tagged ‘Island Records’

Due this April, London three-piece Flyte’s sophomore album is a labour of love – finely-crafted rootsy indie rock across ten timeless-sounding tracks. Made alongside collaborators Justin Raisen (Angel Olsen, Yves Tumor), Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Bon Iver) and engineer Ali Chant (Aldous Harding), the band’s extraordinary three-part harmonies span a rawer space than they covered in their 2017 debut album. It’s off-kilter, unpolished, music for music’s sake.

Flyte’s “I’ve Got A Girl” has been bouncing around my head non-stop ever since they released it and now we get a little video compliment to go along with the track that stars Tina Malone, star of the UK version of Shameless Feeling like a post-Halloween hangover, the video has a much different vibe than the one for “Losing You” and goes all in on a David Lynch eerie vibe that captures this sound that is very much Flyte, but a new form that we haven’t quite heard before.

watch the music video for “I’ve Got a Girl” below and stay tuned for a more Flyte related content coming very soon.

This Is Really Going To Hurt, on the 9th of April. This will be Flyte’s second album and features the previously released songs: Easy Tiger, Losing You, I’ve Got a Girl as well as the brand new, Under The Skin. This album beautifully weaves together complex and rich vocal arrangements and melodies, with lyrics steeped in literary imagery.

‘This is really going to Hurt’ follows up from their debut album The Loved Ones which was acclaimed by The Sunday Times as “The Best British debut album of the year” and is set to cement the band as refreshingly mature and exceptionally talented.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly six years since I stumbled across the music of Flyte, one of the best bands out of the U.K., or anywhere, for that matter. While Covid has screwed up the release and touring plans for their looming second album, the band has still been slowly laying down the foundation by releasing a handful of new singles, such as the newly released “I’ve Got A Girl.” Late last month I had the pleasure of video chatting on Zoom with the band’s very own Will Taylor and Nick Hill. We spoke about the new track, how much of it really is about the departure of a founding member and friend, the evolution of their sound over the years, some hints of the new record, as well as what movies they’ve been watching. This is an interview I had wanted to do ever since I accidentally discovered their early single “Light Me Up” thanks to a brilliant working YouTube algorithm.

May be an image of 3 people and people standing

Last year Flyte was good to us, giving us a handful of new songs teasing their long-awaited sophomore album (which we spoke to them about last fall), which they have formally announced is entitled This Is Really Going To Hurt and will be out April 9th via Islands Records.

The album, which was recorded in Los Angeles with collaborators Justin Raisen, Andrew Sarlo, and mixing engineer Ali Chant, is a lucid documentation of the bad breakup that lead singer Will Taylor’s endured, following the “ending of a relationship through the stages of grief and acceptance.” These were songs that Taylor shared when we saw them play at Berlin in September of 2019, so we excited to hear them now in their final form, as it’s an album that we can really use during this still very tough time.

Along with today’s announcement comes the release of the music video of new single “Under The Skin.” The track has that trademark song writing from Flyte, with a grandiose build that feels emotional, true, and completely cathartic. When Nick’s guitar enters, the song just runs off with your heart completely.

About the track Taylor explained; “Under the skin” is a build-up of tension. It warns of imminent chaos. An ode to a relationship that’s on the brink of destruction. I hope we never have to write a song like it again, it was a very dark time.

Find the music video for “Under The Skin” available to watch below. 

Music video by Flyte performing Under The Skin (Live). You can pre-order special limited edition bundles of the album which includes a companion book that gives an insight into the making of the album.

Flyte, under exclusive licence to Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations .

Buy Online Ben Howard - Collections From The Whiteout Transparent

Produced alongside Aaron Dessner (The National, Sharon Van Etten, Taylor Swift), “Collections From The Whiteout” heralds the first time Ben Howard has opened the door to production outside of he and his bands closer confines. ‘Collections From The Whiteout’ marks the London BRIT Award winner’s fourth full-length and is scheduled to arrive on March 26th via Island Records.

The foreboding darkness that coated Ben’s second record I Forget Where We Were and thinly veiled its follow up Noonday Dream, isn’t so evident on Collections.. These are songs written from headlines scanned, or news stories scrolled past. Ben has taken those snippets and let his curiosity take control, creating an aural scrapbook that reverberates with tape loops and guitar FXs.

There are sounds akin to Brian Eno, Durutti Column and Steve Reich in there, but also Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt. It’s a million miles away from Ben’s multi-platinum selling debut, but a path plotted from Ben’s then to his now isn’t so far removed.

The door was also left open to some new players too. Yussef Dayes, one of the UK’s most innovative young drummer/producer’ especially in the field of jazz features, as does Kate Stables from This Is The Kit, James Krivchenia from Big Thief, Kyle Keegan from Hiss Golden Messenger, and the aforementioned Aaron Dessner lent his hand too where needed. Long-term guitarist to Ben’s band, Mickey Smith, remains a reassuring presence.  Rob Moose, a long-standing arranger of strings for Bon Iver and a collaborator to Laura Marling, Blake Mills, and Phoebe Bridgers is also present, peppering the mix.

Ben Howard has announced his fourth studio album will be available on Limited Edition Transparent Double Vinyl, Ben Howard – “What A Day” – from ‘Collections From The Whiteout’ New album out 26th March,

A momentous month for The Lathums with their first Island Records single and the vinyl release of debut EP ‘The Memories We Make’

They’re the phenomenal Wigan four-piece that sings about the French Resistance, digital culture and the materialistic age, while routinely sending sold-out audiences into full-voiced rapture. With the world at their feet and fans in all corners of the UK pushing them ever onwards, The Lathums announce their debut single on Island Records, after releasing “All My Life” in July 2020.

Deep-thinking, articulate and blessed with irrepressible positivity, The Lathums’ bright melodies, taught verses and jubilant, beg-for-a-ticket live shows have become British guitar music’s worst kept secret, setting fans of emotive and inclusive song writing rushing in their direction. Delivering pure joy and tall tales, the four talented friends from the overlooked fringes of Greater Manchester enjoyed a heady year on the road and netted streaming figures in their millions before signing to Island in March. It’s a journey immortalised in their short film; The Memories We Make.

A vinyl release of the same name, combining their two, hugely successful digital EPs, The Lathums and Fight On, was released last week and will be celebrated online as part of Tim Burgess’ online lockdown listening revolution. The band from Wigan, UK, For fans of: The Charlatans, Arctic Monkeys. Their songs conjure the unbridled joy of being reunited with all your mates at a jam-packed festival tent.
You’re going to love them: Since their first show at a Coachella-themed hen do, the Island signees have rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in indie (Blossoms, Tim Burgess, James Skelly) over the course of an unstoppable two-year ascent. Think you’ve got ’em sussed? Think again. Keen to avoid coasting in the indie lane, their latest EP pulls inspiration from all over the musical map. Closer ‘Foolish Parley’, for instance, contains a Tarantino-worthy riff and combines Specials-esque verses with a chorus that’s a sure-fire festival smash.

The Lathums Were Jools recently?, Check out their Music video performing “Foolish Parley”.  It’s been a massive 2020 for the fast-rising Wigan band. From playing in sweaty pubs to selling out stages like London’s Electric Ballroom and the O2 Ritz in Manchester, The Lathums have earned a massive following with their nostalgic jangly indie-pop.

“I tend to try and not think about it too much. Sometimes I get those overwhelming moments – I think ‘this is our band doing that’ and people want to see us doing it. It’s mental”, said frontman Alex Moore. They signed to major label Island Records, released their “Ghosts” EP last October, and played at the Blackpool Tower. What a year.

The Lathums came to the aid of Wigan Athletic’s survival campaign by raffling off their cover of Northern Soul classic The Snake by Al Wilson

The Lathums are song writing frontman Alex Moore, Rickenbacker-toting multi-instrumentalist, Scott Concepcion, Johnny Cunliffe on bass and Ryan Durrans behind the drums. Quoting influences as wide ranging as The Housemartins and The Ramones, the band has rapidly recruited a dedicated and attentive following, spanning generations. Their debut headline tour sold out in a day and demanded multiple venue upgrades, while every ticket for their homecoming shows at Wigan Boulevard in February 2020 were gone in just 60 seconds. Deep-thinking, articulate and blessed with irrepressible positivity, The Lathums’ bright melodies, taught verses and jubilant, beg-for-a-ticket live shows have become British guitar music’s worst kept secret, setting fans of emotive and inclusive song writing rushing in their direction. Delivering pure joy and tall tales, the four talented friends from the overlooked fringes of Greater Manchester enjoyed a heady year on the road and netted streaming figures in their millions

The Lathums’ live reputation and the fan-to-fan support for their self-released singles won numerous high-profile supporters to their cause, including musical comrades such as Blossoms, who welcomed the band as tour support for their 2020 arena tour. Rearranged dates

The Lathums – “All My Life”. Released via Island Records. Available on Ltd Edition 7″ Vinyl

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Steve Winwood’s hugely successful “Arc of a Diver” (released 31st december 1980) was not the first album released under his own name alone or even his first foray into solo work. His eponymous release of 1977 holds the former distinction, while the iconic Traffic album “John Barleycorn Must Die” was initially intended to be an effort apart from that group. Nevertheless, the album released on New Year’s Eve 1980 remains the effort that elevated this singular multi-instrumentalist’s name into widespread recognition beyond the fame he garnered with the aforementioned band or his prior stint with The Spencer Davis Group.

Arc of a Diver is certainly an album of its time, dominated by electric keyboards and synthesizers in lieu of the Hammond organ that had been Winwood’s signature instrument since his early days as a musical prodigy circa “I’m A Man” The sound of the B3 is present, almost as an inner lining of the arrangement of the title song, but the more brittle and antiseptic textures hold sway through most of the record, including, most conspicuously and perhaps not coincidentally, on its best-known number “When You See A Chance.”

Ever so skilled as a guitarist, Winwood might well have ascended to status as a hero of the instrument had he pursued such acclaim. But there’s nevertheless precious little of that sound here. On “Night Train,” Steve does use an electric to alternately counterpoint and amplify the syncopated rhythm at the foundation of that penultimate number, but there’s nothing flashy in his playing (though its biting tone does recall the coda of “Dear Mr. Fantasy”). Brief flashes of acoustic fretboard work also decorate the melancholy closer, “Dust” 

But it remains for the vocals to truly distinguish that performance and, in reality, Arc of a Diver as a whole. Virtually unchanged since wailing “Gimme Some Lovin’” in 1966—and remaining so even today—the sound of the man’s voice rings true as the definition of graceful, ageless soul. Steve Winwood’s singing doesn’t exactly imbue warmth all the way into the drum machines of “Spanish Dancer” but it does provide the necessary color for Will Jennings’ lyrics for “Slowdown Sundown.” Winwood played all the instruments on this record, but it is the skill of his phrasing and the very texture of his voice, humanizing each performance, that makes this LP worth coming back to.

Having built upon the foundation Paul McCartney built with his first solo album in 1970, as well as Stephen Stills’ predilection for overdubbing as on display for the eponymous Crosby, Stills and Nash debut, Winwood further refined the one-man-band approach two years later with Talking Back to the Night; there was an even greater sense of a bonafide band playing the music on that LP, which only renders Arc of A Diver more datedThe three bonus cuts on the second CD of the 2012 Deluxe Edition of the latter reaffirm that impression even as the rest of the content on that disc, devoted to a documentary on Steve’s career, spurs the notion that Winwood has never really made a record by himself that fully encapsulates his multi-faceted talent(s). 

It’s thus a most understandable irony that the man’s natural gifts stand out in greatest relief in collaboration with others. For instance, 2003’s About Time not only marked the return to his favourite keyboard, but also a rediscovery of a looser, more improvisational approach in which he was sharing camaraderie with other musicians. Meanwhile, the live appearances with old friend Eric Clapton that began in earnest in 2008, captured on Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood: Live From Madison Square Gardenmay well have provided the best setting for Winwood’s all-around abilities. Yet, even those vivid demonstrations of versatility in no way invalidate the breakthrough that was/is with Arc of A Diver.

Flyte have returned with their brand new single “I’ve Got A Girl” another look at what’s to come with their eventual next body of work. Based on their most recent singles “Losing You” and “Easy Tiger”, “I’ve Got A Girl” is a slightly different sound than many had been expecting. It tackles something heavy and personal for the band – the departure of former member Sam Berridge.

As the band’s lead singer Will Taylor describes: Where all the other tracks on this record are about a romantic relationship coming to an end, this covers the loss of a creative one. Breaking up with a friend and band member. There’s definitely a bitterness listening back to it, but at its core is the sound of a band completely letting go and having a genuinely cathartic time. We recorded it very late at night and more than a little intoxicated,” says lead singer Will Taylor.”

The track sees the band venting through an understandably tough subject and finding a bit of a new sound for them that has some hints of their old sound just delivered in a more refined way based on where they are as artists today. Taylor gets to deliver not just one, but two guitar solos and there is a bit of a dark art-pop sound that feels very Grizzly Bear at times. But like the best artists, they keep on surprising us at every turn and yet still keeping their core sound perfectly intact.

Their new record is shaping up to be something really special and we have only gotten a few pieces of it so far. We can’t wait to get more from this record very soon.

Enjoy a listen to “I’ve Got A Girl”. Flyte, under exclusive licence to Island Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

Buy Online Cat Stevens - Tea For The Tillerman

Following his spiritual and artistic rebirth, and hot on the heels of his incredibly well received release, ‘Mona Bone Jakon’, Cat Stevens unveiled his second album of the year in November 1970 … and it was to become one of the defining musical statements of the new decade. ‘Tea For The Tillerman’, not only consolidated Cat’s success in the UK and forged him a glittering new career in the USA, it also set him on the road to global superstardom and gave the world songs like ‘Wild World’, ‘Father & Son’, ‘Where Do The Children Play?’ and many more.

To commemorate the album’s 50th anniversary comes this definitive super deluxe box set of Tea For The Tillerman’. With the songs’ messages as powerfully relevant today as they were in 1970, the original album is represented here on CD by a brand new 2020 remaster at Abbey Road Studios by Geoff Pesche, overseen by original producer Paul Samwell-Smith, as well as a new 2020 Mix on CD by David Hefti. It also includes, in full, Yusuf’s September 2020 reimagined ‘Tea For The Tillerman 2’ album featuring new interpretations of the classic originals. The box also includes an exclusive fourth CD of outtakes, alternate versions and demos, and a fifth featuring 25 live performances from 1971 including some recorded at the legendary LA music venue The Troubadour.

Alongside the 5CDs and gatefold vinyl LP the box also comes with a live 12” vinyl E.P. of the Troubadour recordings and, on BluRay, the original promo video of ‘Father & Son’, plus live performances, and the HD audio of the new ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ 2020 Mix. Also included is a 98-page beautifully illustrated hardcover book with extensive new sleeve notes. Finally housed in a card envelope within the box is a ‘Pick Up A Good Book’ bookmark, a Yusuf / Cat Stevens designed ‘Miles From Nowhere’ print, a reproduction handwritten lyric sheet for ‘Miles From Nowhere’, a fold-out ‘Live From The Troubadour 1970’ poster, and a ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ sticker.

Seven months after Mona Bone Jakon, Stevens released Tea For The Tillerman.  The multiplatinum album cemented the artist’s reputation and included some of his best-known hits, including “Wild World,” “Father and Son,” and timeless classics like “Where Do the Children Play” and “On the Road To Find Out.”  The deluxe 50th anniversary box packs in 5 CDs, a Blu-ray, an LP, and an etched 12″.  CD 1 includes the 2020 remaster of the original album mix, while CD 2 houses the 2020 remix (also on LP).  The recent album “Tea For The Tillerman 2″ is reprised on CD 3, while CD 4 contains demos, alternate versions, and unreleased tracks.  Among them are “Can This Be Love?” “It’s So Good,” “Love Lives in the Sky,” “The Joke,” and “Honey Man,” a duet with Elton John.  Also featured are “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” and “Don’t Be Shy” from the still-absent-from-CD soundtrack to Harold and Maude.  CD 5 is filled with 25 live recordings from The Troubadour in L.A. (also on an etched 12″),  KCET also in L.A., the BBC In Concert performance, Beat Club, various French TV appearances, and four songs recorded at New York’s Fillmore East.  The BluRay includes the promo video for “Father and Son,” TV appearances on KCET, a trio of songs from the BBC, and performances on Beat Club and French television.  If that weren’t enough, there’s also high-res audio of the 2020 remix of Tea For The Tillerman.

Slimmer editions include a 1-CD standard edition book set with the 2020 remaster of the original album mix and a 2-CD deluxe edition with the remaster and a selection of demos and live recordings.

In all it’s a fitting celebration for these landmark albums that not only brought Cat Stevens/Yusuf newfound attention worldwide, but also cemented a sound that would take hold in the ’70s and continue to influence musicians to this day.  The 50th anniversary editions of Mona Bone Jakon and Tea For The Tillerman are available for pre-order now, due to ship close to the December 4th release date.  You can peruse the track listings and place your orders below!  And check out the new singles, “I Want Some Sun” and “Can This Be Love,” to whet your appetite. 

Buy Online Cat Stevens - Mona Bone Jakon

Back in 1970 and following a period of illness and recuperation, singer-songwriting troubadour Cat Stevens re-emerged with a new record deal with Island Records and a spiritual and artistic rebirth. ‘Mona Bone Jakon’, his first album for Island, showcased a markedly different change in direction for Cat, unveiling with it a remarkable set of new  compositions that included classics like ‘Trouble’, ‘Maybe You’re Right’ and the UK hit single ‘Lady D’Arbanville’.

To commemorate the album’s 50th anniversary comes this definitive super deluxe box set of ‘Mona Bone Jakon’. Sounding as fresh as the day it was recorded, the original album is represented here by a brand new 2020 remaster of ‘Mona Bone Jakon’ by Geoff Pesche at Abbey Road, overseen by original producer Paul Samwell-Smith 2020 on CD, as well as a new 2020 Mix by David Hefti on both CD and LP. The set also includes an exclusive third CD of previously unreleased demos, and a fourth featuring 18 live performances from 1970/71.

This box is rounded out with a live 12” etched vinyl E.P. of a rare audience recording of ‘Live At Plumpton Jazz & Blues Festival’ from August 1970, and with a BluRay disc featuring the original promo video of ‘Lady D’Arbanville’, plus eight live TV performances, and the HD audio of the new Mona Bone Jakon 2020 Mix. Also included is a 98-page beautifully illustrated hardcover book with extensive new sleeve notes. Finally there’s also a selection of memorabilia including Island Records press kit, two Island press photos, a replica 1970 Plumpton Jaxx and Blues flyer, a Cat Stevens tour sticker and ‘dustbin’ greetings card and pop art print in a card envelope. 

Hitting shelves that day will be 50th anniversary editions of Mona Bone Jakon and Tea For The Tillerman.  Released within 7 months in 1970, these albums saw Stevens redefining his sound.  Following a battle with tuberculosis and a lengthy stay at in the hospital, Stevens had begun looking inward, exploring literature and meditation, and reflecting on who he was as an artist.  Beginning on these two albums, he stripped away many of the production excesses of his late-’60s Deram albums in favour of a more soulful, introspective sound that would dovetail with the burgeoning singer-songwriter movement.  This metamorphosis began with Mona Bone Jakon, produced by ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith and featuring long time collaborator Alun Davies on guitar along with John Ryan on bass and Harvey Burns on drums.

The 4-CD/Blu-ray/LP 50th anniversary box set edition of Mona Bone Jakon features a new remaster of the original mix (overseen by Paul Samwell-Smith) on CD 1, a 2020 remix by David Hefti on CD 2, and on LP, unreleased demos on CD 3 (including the new single “I Want Some Sun”), and 18 live performances on CD 4.  Among the live performances are legendary television appearances on French TV, Beat Club in Germany, and two different BBC sessions.  Another highlight is a 6-song set from the Plumpton Jazz and Blues Festival in August 1970 which sees Stevens tackling songs from Mona Bone Jakon, the as-yet-released Tea For The Tillerman, and even “Changes IV,” which would appear on Teaser and the Firecat in 1971.  The Plumpton set is also featured on an etched LP in the set.  Rounding out the Mona Bone Jakon box is a Blu-ray disc featuring high-resolution audio of the 2020 mix, plus the original promotional video for “Lady D’Arbanville,” television appearances on Pop Deux and other French TV programs, as well as “Maybe You’re Right” from BBC’s In Concert series and “Lady D’Arbanville” on Beat Club.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a deluxe box set without some memorabilia.  Inside the Mona Bone Jakon box you’ll find a replica Island Records press kit, two Cat Stevens press photos, a replica flier for the 1970 Plumpton Jazz and Blues Festival, a tour sticker, greeting card, and a pop art-inspired dustbin print.

Slimmer editions of Mona Bone Jakon will also be available.  The 1-CD standard edition will feature the 2020 remaster of the original album mix housed in a book set.  A similarly presented 2-CD deluxe edition pairs this remaster with a disc of studio demos and live highlights.

Richard and Linda Thompson

Richard and Linda Thompson’s early recordings together have attained an almost mythical status and their first three acclaimed Island Records classics will now be available again on vinyl from September 11th through UMC/Island. “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight” (1974), “Hokey Pokey” (1975) and “Pour Down Like Silver” (1975) have been pressed on 180 gram vinyl and will come with a Download Code. These seminal works, ground-breaking at the time, have influenced generations of artists and firmly established Richard and Linda Thompson as major figures on the British folk scene.

Richard and Linda Thompson: I Want To See The Bright Lights

Recorded in May 1973, but not released until 1974 due to an international oil shortage, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight is a dark and eclectic affair. Richard and Linda share vocals and many of the album’s twelve tracks would become firm fan favourites, including: ‘When I Get To The Border’, ‘Calvary Cross’, ‘We Sing Hallelujah’  and ‘The End of The Rainbow’, ‘Down Where The Drunkards Roll’,  ‘Has He Got A Friend For Me?’, ‘The Great Valerio’ and the title track. Now considered a classic album, it did little to trouble the charts on its original release but was very well received by the music press. Geoff Brown of Melody Maker proclaimed: “Richard Thompson is… the most accomplished guitarist in this land… He’s written some masterful songs, here and Linda, has performed them as perfectly as we’ve a right to expect”.

Despite now being considered a Classic Album, sales of ‘I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight’ were modest and did little to trouble chart. It was, however, very well received by the music press: “Richard Thompson is… the most accomplished guitarist in this land… He’s written some masterful songs, here and Linda, has performed them as perfectly as we’ve a right to expect”. Geoff Brown – Melody Maker

“These are songs which are going to be sung, and sung and sung. Not just heard by Richard and Linda, but by you, me, everybody. They have the mark of greatness upon them” Karl Dallas – Folk Review

Richard and Linda Thompson: Hokey Pokey

Richard and Linda’s 2nd LP from 1974 is now pressed on 180gram vinyl and contains a Download Code. Released in 1975, ‘Hokey Pokey’ is a much jollier release than its predecessor, ’I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight’. Richard always envisaged Hokey Pokey’ as “a music-hall influenced record”. He was a big fan of Harry Lauder and Gracie Fields, and this inspiration can be seen in the Victorian style cover by Shirt Sleeve Studio, and is audible on the title track, “”Hokey Pokey”” and also ‘Georgie On A Spree’.

A mixture of darkly comic songs like “Smiffy’s Glass Eye” and the more world weary nature of ‘I’ll Regret It All In The Morning” and “A Heart Needs A Home”. There are also more sombre songs such as ‘The Egypt Room” which Richard described as “half way between The Coasters ‘Little Egypt’, George Formby, and Dickens by way of Patricia Highsmith”.

Also released in 1975, Richard and Linda’s third LP Pour Down Like Silver became known as ‘The Sufi album’ due to Richard’s recent conversion to Islam. It is a more restrained and spartan album compared to its lusher sounding predecessors and contains some of Richard’s most beautiful songs including ‘For Shame Of Doing Wrong’, ‘Beat The Retreat’ and ‘Dimming Of The Day’, with ‘Hard Luck Stories’ probably the most musically upbeat song on the album.

Richard and Linda Thompson: Pour Down Like Silver

The record was warmly received with Rolling Stone observing: “Pour Down Like Silver is the kind of album that makes listening to music worthwhile, a record of such rare beauty and scope that one honestly feels privileged to hear it.” And Angus MacKinnon of the NME concluded that:  “through its exploration of extreme disillusionment, ‘Pour Down Like Silver’ remains a considerable and deeply moving achievement”.

Artist’s website:

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a musical instrument and guitar, text that says 'JOHN MARTYN'

John Martyn’s best songs had an intensity and raw emotional power that earned him a cult following which remains strong even today. Martyn was a musical maverick, a bitingly honest songwriter, and one of the most brilliant acoustic guitarists of his generation.

One of Martyn’s biggest technological innovations was his use of Echoplex delay, which allowed him to build layers of guitar. The technique was ahead of its time, and has been cited as an inspiration by U2’s The Edge. As well as influencing contemporaries such as Eric Clapton, Martyn’s work has earned him adoration from artists as varied as Beck, Joe Bonamassa, and Beth Orton. Although Martyn never had a hit single, some of his best songs, including the folk anthem “May You Never” and the ethereal “Solid Air,” are modern classics.

His finest work was for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, who called Martyn “a true one-take man.” Blackwell gave the musician the time and backing to create a very personal sound. Although Martyn was a powerful live performer, dazzling with his guitar work and his extraordinary smoky, sweet-voiced inflections, he instinctively understood what was needed for music to come alive in a recording studio. As a result, he left a series of enduring albums from a volatile four-decade career.

“May You Never,” “Sweet Little Mystery,” “Fine Lines,” “Don’t Want to Know,” “Couldn’t Love You More”
As a youngster, Martyn was a fan of the guitar styles of blues men such as Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James. He developed his own hard plucking, dextrous style to accompany his brooding, introspective lyrics. The combination became a trademark of much of Martyn’s best work in the 1970s. His most enduring song is perhaps the catchy “May You Never,” which appeared on the 1973 album “Solid Air”. Fellow folk guitar maestro Richard Thompson, who played with Martyn in this era, said, “you could put it into a hymn book.” Martyn’s friend and occasional collaborator Clapton covered “May You Never” on his 1977 album Slowhand.

Martyn was born Ian David McGeachy, taking his stage name when he moved from Scotland to London in 1967. He recorded accessible, melodic tunes throughout his career, including “Sweet Little Mystery” from 1980’s Grace and Danger. Martyn oozed ease, something evident on “Fine Lines,” a song which featured his ad-libbed comment that “it felt natural” – an aside retained on 1973’s Inside Out album – as he slid into a tender song about friendship and loneliness. The album was made with “no self-consciousness… probably the purest album I’ve made musically,” said Martyn.

The son of two light opera singers, John Martyn’s best songs often saw him using his voice like an instrument, especially when he was repeating phrases. He sings impressively on “Don’t Want to Know,” also from Solid Air, which was written in Hastings with the help of his first wife Beverley Kutner. Another good introduction to Martyn’s back catalogue is “Couldn’t Love You More,” from 1977’s One World, which featured his long-term collaborator and bass player Danny Thompson. On the surface, it’s a sweet romantic ballad but, in typical Martyn fashion, there is an ambiguous undertow to the tender lyrics, suggesting a lover who has nothing more to give. With Martyn, the darkness usually held back the light.

“Solid Air,” “Go Down Easy,” “Small Hours”
Martyn was a musician who brought the intensity of a live performance to studio work. “Solid Air,” the mesmerizing title track to his most popular album, was written for his friend Nick Drake, shortly after the release of Drake’s masterpiece Pink Moon. In the years since Drake’s death in November 1974, the song has turned into a kind of requiem for the talented singer-songwriter, who was just 26 when he passed away.

Martyn once said that he loved jazz saxophone players – he raved in particular about Ben Webster – and the singer’s deftly-phrased delivery gelled magnificently with the tenor saxophone playing of Tony Coe on “Solid Air.” Coe was a sought-after session man who had recorded with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Art Farmer. “John Martyn would smooth in his entries like a saxophone. It was almost like an actor’s voice,” John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, the keyboard player who performed on the album told Graeme Thomson, author of an excellent biography entitled Small Hours: The Long Night of John Martyn.

“Go Down Easy” is another song from Solid Air that has an atmospheric appeal. It’s worth listening closely to the way Martyn and upright bass player Thompson interact throughout. Thompson once said that playing with Martyn was like “a natural musical conversation.” The arrangement of the song, which was recorded like a live jam session, allowed Thompson’s deft playing to entwine with Martyn’s guitar playing in what is a masterclass of intonation.

John Martyn’s best songs often had a hypnotic, free-form grace, something evident on One World, the triumphant album he recorded at Chris Blackwell’s house Woolwich Green Farm in the summer of 1977. The project started in Jamaica, involving singer and producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, when Blackwell made the rare decision to produce Martyn. He got the best out of the singer. The title track featured a haunting guitar solo, while the epic, soothing “Small Hours,” which is just under nine minutes, is one to let wash over your brain.

(“Bless the Weather,” “One Day Without You,” “Hurt in Your Heart,” “Our Love,” “Angeline”)
“Bless the Weather” is a fierce love song and a good example of the way Martyn explored the flaws and frailties of the human heart. As his career went on, Martyn’s compositions grew progressively bleaker. The man who wrote the warm-hearted “One Day Without You” (“One day without you/And I feel just like some lost ship at sea”) in 1974 was a different beast to the man who went into the studio six years later to record Grace and Danger. By that point, Martyn was trying to make sense of “a dark period in my life,” one that included divorce and addiction.

The pain came out in eviscerating confessional songs such as “Hurt in Your Heart” and “Our Love.” Martyn is quoted in Thomson’s book as saying that the songs on Grace and Danger were “probably the most specific piece of autobiography I’ve written. Some people keep diaries, I make records.”

Although Grace and Danger marked the last true high point of Martyn’s album-making, he returned to the theme of lost love with “Angeline,” on 1986’s Piece by Piece. Although “Angeline” is a more melodic offering than “Hurt in Your Heart,” it is full of passion and sorrow. Island released it as a single, but it’s worth seeking out live versions, where Martyn extended the song considerably.

(“Over the Hill,” “Dancing,” “Singin’ in the Rain”)
Although some of John Martyn’s best songs have a mordant, disturbing quality, he was also a witty stage performer, capable of recording exuberant, joyful songs. The acclaimed comedian Billy Connolly, who was a folk singer himself in the mid-1960s in Scotland, remembered Martyn as “a good laugh.”

One of Martyn’s most uplifting songs is “Over the Hill,” from Solid Air, on which Richard Thompson plays mandolin. Martyn’s song, which describes a homecoming, was written about the final part of a journey into Hastings, the train ambling through the countryside before revealing the seaside town.

Island released his 1977 song “Dancing” as a single, and this Afrobeat paean to the joys of the life of a travelling, stay-out musician, is truly infectious. Martyn was never enamored with the old-fashioned image of British folk music – which he scornfully dismissed as “the dingly-dangly-dell of life” – but he was a fan of nostalgic songs that put “a smile on your face.” He frequently performed “Singin’ in the Rain,” both live – where he encouraged singalongs – and in the studio, including his 1971 version on Bless the Weather.

(“Wining Boy Blues,” “The Glory of Love,” “I’d Rather Be the Devil,” “Spencer the Rover”)
Martyn was a gifted interpreter. He even cut a whole album of covers – 1998’s The Church with One Bell – which featured songs written by Randy Newman, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Elmore James, and Bobby Charles. Martyn grew up loving Jelly Roll Morton’s “Wining Boy Blues” and he recorded his own version early in his career, along with a touching take on Billy Hill’s “The Glory of Love,” a song first made famous by Benny Goodman in the 1930s.

One of his most spell-binding performances was of Skip James’s “Devil Take My Woman,” which Martyn retitled “I’d Rather Be the Devil” for Solid Air and turned into a passionate six-minute tour-de-force, full of the electronic effects from the tape device known as the Echoplex. Although Martyn had originally played straight acoustic versions of the song – which he’d learned at Les Cousins Folk Club in London in 1969 – his recorded version was the finest example of his experiments with Echoplex, something that started with the 1970 album Stormbringer! By 1973’s Solid Air, it had become a key part of his repertoire, his skill with it even earning praise from Bob Marley. “Bob was totally blown away,” Blackwell is quoted as saying in Thomson’s book.

Although Martyn rarely covered traditional songs, his version of “Spencer the Rover,” a folk song that had origins in the northern English county of Yorkshire, is sublime. Martyn, who named one of his sons Spenser, always enjoyed singing what was, perhaps, a romanticized version of his own wild wanderings.

Martyn’s roving days came to an end in 2003, when he had his right leg amputated below the knee because of a burst cyst. He continued performing until 2008, using a wheelchair. When Martyn received a lifetime achievement award at the 2008 BBC Folk Awards, Clapton was quoted as saying that the innovative Martyn was, “so far ahead of everything, it’s almost inconceivable.”