Learn How

Help improve All About Jazz

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. For $20, we'll hide those pesky Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Various Artists: Johnny Boy Would Love This…A Tribute to John Martyn

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Various Artists: Johnny Boy Would Love This…A Tribute to John Martyn With the release of Heaven and Earth (Hole in the Rain, 2011), it seems that the world has heard the last of John Martyn, who passed away in 2009 a few months shy of his 61st birthday. This most personal of singer/songwriters has left a remarkable legacy, and while Johnny Boy Would Love This...A Tribute to John Martyn covers 30 of his best songs, it still doesn't hit all of them, speaking to a rare prolificacy in Martyn's first two decades as a recording artist. And while there are some hidden gems amidst this double-disc, 125-minute set, it's the enduring familiarity of these songs that's most remarkable.

There's little doubt that Martyn truly would love to see his music stretched beyond his own broad purview, which ranged from early days as a committed folkie with jazz tinges, to mid-period pop complexions in collaboration with bigger stars like Phil Collins and Eric Clapton (all of whom expressed admiration and awe)...even into the area of programmed, hip hop-informed chillout music. Martyn revisited and reinvented his own material often, with "Couldn't Love You More" ranging from the vibe-accompanied folk reading on One World (Island, 1977) and poppier approach of the Collins-produced Glorious Fool (Warner Bros., 1981) to a sax-driven, near-smooth jazz take on the controversial (and unauthorized), same-titled 1992 Permanent Records release. But none of them approach Lisa Hannigan's fragile, harmonium-accompanied version. And while it's hard to match the sheer heartbreak of Martyn singing "Hurt in Your Heart," from Grace & Danger (Island, 1980), supported by his signature, echo-laden electric guitar, Judie Tzuke's more backbeat-driven take manages to retain its vein-opened vulnerability.

The tribute reaches right back to the opening track of Martyn's 1968 Island debut, London Conversation, with Bombay Bicycle Club retaining the acoustic innocence of "Fairytale Lullaby" while fleshing it out to include harmony vocals and spare percussion. "Rope Soul'd," a lesser-known track from 1984's drum-programmed Sapphire (Island), is stretched by The Blackships to over seven minutes, combining contemporary and retro feels in ways Martyn would undoubtedly have approved.

A few heavy-hitters show up, including Beck's mellotron-bolstered version of the title track to 1970's Stormbringer (Island), while Collins closes the set with "Tearing and Breaking," a tune he co-wrote with Martyn for his 2004 compilation, Love Songs: A Compilation...Old and New (Atlantic). But some of the best material comes from lesser-knowns, like Chicago's Oh My God, delivering a grittily funky version of Martyn's live showstopper, "John Wayne," or Scotland's Paolo Nutini soulful reading of the title track to 1977's One World (Island), belying his young age.

Martyn's discography will, no doubt, continue to receive Deluxe treatments as unreleased material is unearthed, but Johnny Boy Would Love This brings him to a younger demographic of artists alongside more established performers like Beth Orton and Joe Bonamassa, all proving the enduring resonance of his work. Just as Island Records label mate Nick Drake has enjoyed considerable cult success decades after committing suicide in 1974, Martyn deserves similar consideration, and Johnny Boy Would Love This could well be the breakthrough that inspires others to look at his rich, varied and often heartbreaking body of work.

Track Listing: CD1: Let the Good Things Come (David Gray); Glorious Fool (Clarence Fountain & Sam Butler); Small Hours (Robert Smith of The Cure); Stormbringer (Beck); Over the Hill (Ted Barnes featuring Gavin Clark); I Don't Want to Know (The Swell Season); Bless the Weather (The Emperors of Wyoming: Butch Vig and company); Couldn't Love You More (Lisa Hannigan); Go Easy (Vetiver); Solid Air (Skye Edwads of Morcheeba); You Can Discover (Cheryl Wilson); The Easy Blues (Joe Bonamssa); Dancing (Sonia Dada); Certain Surprise (Sabrina Dinan); One World (Paolo Nutini). CD2: May You Never (Snow Patrol); Go Down Easy (Beth Orton); Fairytale Lullaby (Bombay Bicycle Club); Fine Lines (Syd Kitchen); Head and Heart (Vashti Bunyan); Run Honey Run (Morcheeba feat. Bradley Burgess); Angeline (Nicholas Barron); Walk to the Water (John Smith(; Hurt in Your Heart (Judie Tzuke); Road to Ruin (Jim Tulio); John Wayne (Oh My God); Rope Soul'd (The Blackships feat. David McKellar); Back to Stay (Ultan Conlon); Anna (Brendan Campbell); Tearing and Breaking (Phil Collins).

Personnel: Detailed personnel not provided.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Hole in the Rain

Related Video


More Articles

Read Umbrella Weather CD/LP/Track Review Umbrella Weather
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 24, 2017
Read Born In An Urban Ruin CD/LP/Track Review Born In An Urban Ruin
by John Sharpe
Published: January 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 24, 2017
Read Sanguinaria (Hopeful Songs) CD/LP/Track Review Sanguinaria (Hopeful Songs)
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 24, 2017
Read #knowingishalfthebattle CD/LP/Track Review #knowingishalfthebattle
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Live In Brooklyn CD/LP/Track Review Live In Brooklyn
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 23, 2017
Read "Shoebox View" CD/LP/Track Review Shoebox View
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 4, 2016
Read "Live In The Black Forest" CD/LP/Track Review Live In The Black Forest
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 9, 2016
Read "Untitled" CD/LP/Track Review Untitled
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 13, 2016
Read "Stinger" CD/LP/Track Review Stinger
by Joe Gatto
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Groove Travels" CD/LP/Track Review Groove Travels
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 31, 2016
Read "Westering Home" CD/LP/Track Review Westering Home
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 7, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Get Jazz Near You via email!

Enjoy the convenience of receiving a comprehensive listing of jazz events in your area every Thursday. It's free!