At the time of producing Solid Air, John Martyn was fighting a long and strenuous battle with alcoholism. But despite this apparent distraction, John Martyn's musical career did not suffer, at least not in terms of his albums. Solid Air
is often looked at as one of Martyn's defining moments along with the brilliant Bless the Weather
, Grace & Danger
and Live at Leeds
. It is easy to see why Solid Air
is considered one of his best, with Martyn making huge strides both in terms of his voice and his signature backslap guitar playing.
starts out strongly with the title track, Solid Air
. His vocals take on a new heightened level of proficiency that easily surpasses anything heard on his prior work. The vocals slur and slide together with some words melting together in a heavily Jazz influenced tone that mix flawlessly with Martyn's warm and soulful backslap guitar. This Jazz influence is also represented with the sexy Tenor Saxophone that weaves in and out of the song that help to keep the listener enchanted in the song's sexy and mellow soul.
However John Martyn does not ditch his Folk and Blues roots completely on this album, and borrows heavily from the style of Bless the Weather
as well as other artists like Eric Clapton. This is evident in songs like May You Never
, The Easy Blues
and Over the Hill
where Martyn's guitar takes on a sharper accent and stronger tone. Although they have a feeling that is more similar to his previous work, they cannot be considered a step backward in Martyn's evolvement. May You Never
is a track that feels very similar to Eric Clapton's work of that era, and was even co-produced by Clapton himself.
Martyn's voice may not be as mature as in other tracks on Solid Air
, but his excellent backslap guitar work more than makes up for it, helping to provide a clear and precise rhythm that many other singer and songwriters lack. The Echoplex delay effect is also clearly evident in Over the Hill
and May You Never
, which is an effect that allowed Martyn to play several layers of guitar over each other. This creates a rich intermixture of several simple patterns woven together to make a complex arrangement.
Jazz and Folk are not the only genres to make their influence felt on this album, with I'd Rather Be the Devil
and Dreams By The Sea
both taking on a more Blues driven Rock feel. These two songs at times feel out of place on Solid Air
and are more similar to Martyn's later albums like Grace & Danger
and Glorious Fool
. However both songs are still solid contributions to the album, and help show off Martyn's versatile voice.
It is however the the more simple and warm tracks that make Solid Air
what it is. Don't Want to Know
is another song that shows the perfect blend of Martyn's potent voice that can melt words together and that irresistible backslap guitar. The song slowly builds up from a brooding lush piece to a catchy blues driven piece, yet again showing Martyn's diversity. The Man In The Station
and Go Down Easy
demonstrate Martyn's knack at blending together the different instruments into one "eeeeeesay" going melody. In some ways they copy the formula of the title track Solid Air
, but when listening to this album one cannot help but let that go and absorb oneself into Martyn's choclate covered voice
is a massive improvement over some of Martyn's previous work, and many of the songs still remain today as Martyn's signature tunes. The album lets itself down in one or two areas, and I'd rather be the Devil
feels rather out of place in comparison with his softer and sexier melodies. It is because of these slip ups that Solid Air
falls short of 5 stars.
isn't for everyone, people looking for instant hooks and catchy melodies may find that Solid Air
does not deliver straight away. However Solid Air
rewards the listener who allows themself to be immersed by the music, and most of all, to be immersed by that enchanting voice.