Thursday, January 29, 2009
Melody Maker, 1990
by Simon Reynolds
John Martyn was a castaway on the same hazy archipelago of jazzy-folky-funky-blues as other burnt-out hippy visionaries of the Seventies (V. Morrison, J. Mitchell, etc). Released in 1977, this album takes the oceanic dub-funk of his masterpiece Solid Air's "I'd Rather Be The Devil" even further. The cover features a mermaid diving balletically out of the water and into the air, trailing behind her an iridescent wake of flying fish, and musically, One World is something like a Let's Get It On for the Great Barrier Reef.
Tracks like "Dealer", "Smiling Stranger", "Big Muff", see a bass/clavinet/moog funk-pulse entwined with echoplexed scintillas of guitar like sunlight glancing off wave-crests. Imagine something like U2's "Unforgettable Fire" meets Stevie Wonder's "Superstition". This sound doesn't just caress your skin, it seems to permeate your flesh. Martyn's almost ambient guitar shadings unfurl as beautifully as cigarette smoke shot through by a shaft of sunlight. And his drowsy, bluesy drawl is 50 percent honeyed devotional, 50 percent horny urgency.
In 1977, Martyn's langorous funk and love-is-the-drug, withdrawal-blues must have seemed supremely irrelevant next to the snotty, sexless insurgency of punk. But today One World sounds a helluva lot more modern than The Clash. John Martyn turned the dancefloor into an aquarium a dozen years ahead of A.R. Kane or The Grid. Take the plunge forthwith.