John Martyn The Battle of Medway: July 17, 1973 (Live)
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- Released: June 26, 2007
- Originally Released: 2007
- Label: Hux Records
Uncut - p.944 stars out of 5 -- "[P]roof Martyn was a talent apart....Hearing his feverish deliver...is still enough to send a shiver down the spine."
The Wire - p.47"[The album] is edge of the seat reporting from the early 70s Brit-folk war zone where the forces of progress and reaction faced off against one another."
Record Collector (magazine) - p.923 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's a fascinating insight into an innovative artist at the crossroads of his career....[With] a good-humoured, surprisingly talkative Martyn, revealing introductions and the sheer intensity of his playing."
- 1.Outside In
- 2.Mr. Jelly Roll Baker
- 3.Don't Wanna Know
- 4.May You Never
- 5.Singing in the Rain
- 6.Head and Heart
- 7.Seven Black Roses
- 8.Sugar Cube
- 9.I'd Rather Be the Devil
- 10.Flying on Home
- 11.Different From the Book
- 13.Hello Train
When John Martyn played at a pub in Kent, England, on July 17, 1973, it was a noteworthy event for fans in the know, as he'd graduated out of the folk club circuit by that time. Geoff Harden, who ran the Medway Folk Centre that staged the event, recorded Martyn's performance on a reel-to-reel tape, the resulting nine songs finding release on this 44-minute CD in 2007. Often such finds are useful additions to besotted fans' collections, even if they're not up to the standard of most official live releases in quality. But in fairness to those fans, it has to be stated that the fidelity on this release is really subpar and more akin to unimpressive bootlegs, particularly in the faint and tinny vocals. It's also not as if this is the only material of its sort in Martyn's discography, which includes other, better-sounding live and BBC recordings from the mid-'70s. That warning given, if you're ready to accept this as a mediocre bootleg-quality recording that's been made officially available, it does have his usual baffling mix of acoustic folk and extended workouts for his Echoplex guitar effects. Because those two nine-minute Echoplex-dominated performances (of "Outside In," whose studio version was still a few months away from release, and "I'd Rather Be the Devil") aren't as dependent on vocals, they might be the most listenable items here, even if they leave the impression of someone drowning in his own effects. The rest of the set largely presents acoustic performances of songs from his early-'70s releases, though one ("Seven Black Roses") dates all the way back to his late-'60s album The Tumbler. He also brings out a searing electric guitar for "Sugar Lump," which is somehow retitled "Sugar Cube" here. As some compensation for the poor sound, the packaging is up to the Hux label's usual high standards, with lengthy liner notes from folk-rock expert Colin Harper about both this tape and the phase Martyn's career was going through at the time. ~ Richie Unterberger
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