Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

John Martyn - Inside Out

John Martyn
Inside Out

Released 1973 on Island
Reviewed by venus willendorf, 03/02/2006ce

John Martyn: Inside Out

1. Fine Lines
2. Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail
3. Ain't No Saint
4. Outside In
5. The Glory of Love
6. Look In
7. Beverley
8. Make No Mistake
9. Ways To Cry
10. So Much In Love With You

Before expounding the pleasures of this frazzled little masterpiece, it's worth recalling that near faultless body of John Martyn's consummate 1970s work, to remind readers that this man is up there with other 70s rock leviathans in his ability to produce a plethora of transcendent platters: Bless the Weather (1971), Solid Air (1973), Inside Out (1973), Sundays Child (1975) and One World (1977) (I'm purposely omitting the 'Live at Leeds' album and his two albums with muse/earth mother Beverley Martin - these somehow seem outside this little orbit). That's five magnificent albums - there are few around who've managed to pull this off.

Crucially, while all these albums are shot through with the consistency of Martyn's musical genius, each also manages to elaborate and unfold a new musical terrain. Whether it’s the folk-tinged melancholy of Bless the Weather or the coke ravaged schizophrenia of Inside Out, John Martyn creates a particular snap shot of his life and psychology at that time. In fact, there's something deeply honest and heartfelt about his work, which pays little heed to the tawdry ramblings of the latest zeitgeist.

On first hearing I thought this record was hopelessly mixed up and confused - each track seems to exist in its own sonic universe, denying any musical coherence. There's little sense of a consistent mood, which his albums from this period had (Solid Air perhaps being the finest example). As a result, it's easy on first listen to dismiss the record as a series of failed attempts at various styles. It's only with repeated listening that a unique identity begins to form (isn't this true of so many great records?). Thus the melancholy warmth and depth of the opening Fine Lines, where Danny Thompson's bass itches mournfully alongside wistful and woebegone piano chords, and which fades into the strange modal electric folk of Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail, does, on initial hearing sound jarring and ill-conceived, but live with it a while and it slowly begins to seep very convincingly into that part of the cerebral cortex marked classic coke and dope blasted 70s masterpiece. Consider the 8-minute title track, which kicks off as an echoplexed slice of disjointed funk, but then half way through collapses into ecstatic free form jazz. It kind of sums up the album.

Though Martyn would go on to produce two more great albums before the 1970s closed (Sunday's Child (1975) and One World (1977)), he would unfortunately never get quite as twisted and inspired as during the making of Inside Out (though One World, one of the last great 1970s albums from the 60s/70s troubadour set, at times gets close). Investigate, give it patience and you will be richly rewarded.

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