The Wire - p.43
"Martyn practically breathes through his guitar, squeezing stained-glass chords through his tenderly applied volume pedal."
Readers should get one matter out of the way immediately -- this rather mysterious and cryptically annotated double-CD set from Prism Records is not comprised of tracks from John Martyn's 1977 Island album of the same name. Rather, according to its own very small-print annotation, it assembles 27 tracks recorded at Woodhall in 1994, and that's as much hard information as there is here about this set's origins. This is Martyn at his most musically diverse, with various progressive and world music influences, and even elements of soul woven throughout his familiar folk-rooted style, presented here with full amplification and (mostly) a small band accompaniment -- only "John Wayne," the closer for the set, gets into a really big-scale sound at its end. The content is all well-recorded and offers material ranging across a couple of decades of Martyn's history, encompassing several stylistic phases, but one wishes there were more information about the actual recordings and their origins and circumstances -- and especially about the live version of "Easy Blues" late on Disc Two (which, one assumes, is the same cut that opens the John Martyn Live CD from Artful), the parent company of Prism Platinum. As to the musical content, the fact that "Big Muff" and "One World," as well as "Dealer," which are spread all over these two CDs, also happen to be the finest pieces on this set -- though it should be said that everything here is worth hearing -- also speaks to the debt that this collection (whatever its origins) owes to the Island One World album. ~ Bruce Eder