Bless the Weather album cover
Bless the Weather

John Martyn

Island Records

Made for two thousand pounds with producer and engineer John Wood, who worked on Nick Drake and John Martyn albums, Bless The Weather is the true beginning of the Martyn hot streak (though Stormbringer! might be the true start of Martyn leaving folk behind). Martyn starts working in earnest with upright bassist Danny Thompson and abandoning known forms (folk, pop, rock) and obvious sounds (kick and snare, for one). Beverley Martyn is almost entirely absent now, except for a few spooky backing vocals (see “Let The Good Things Come”). The real romance now is between Martyn and Thompson (see the magnificent closing minutes of “Head and Heart” for a deliciously peaceful bass and guitar dogfight). The Martyn slipstream has opened, and everything sort of floats along the top. Martyn’s love of Pharoah Sanders has turned his voice into a maker of harmonic width rather than a conduit for words. The “s” sound often becomes a “z” sound and the fricatives simply disappear. A fan of Sanders’ Karma album, Martyn may have given something back to Sanders—Cecil McBee’s bass on Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda, on which Sanders plays, is mixed very much like Thompson’s bass here and on other Martyn records. Martyn’s biggest technical innovation appears for the first time here on this album: the use of a tape echo unit; the WEM Copicat this time, and after this, the Maestro Echoplex. Martyn’s main setup was an acoustic guitar with pickup added to it, and he plucked the string with his right hand fingers rather than using a pick. “Glistening Glyndebourne” is an instrumental where he’s run that guitar through the Copicat and is timing his playing to respond to the the echoes coming from the unit, creating rhythmic patterns that you will recognize instantly from The Edge’s playing. I’ve never confirmed if The Edge knew Martyn’s playing but it seems likely.

Sasha Frere-Jones

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