John Martyn - The Road To Ruin (1970)
'The Road To Ruin', John and Beverley Martyn's second studio album, released in 1970 was the follow up to the couple's excellent alternative folk-jazz styled debut album released earlier that year. Many listeners think of John Martyn, the solo artist but reality is that before that, he and his wife Beverley put together two excellent and often overlooked albums. These ultimately kick-started John Martyn's career and allowed him to be more noticed when he began his solo work.
'The Road To Ruin' is quite simply a brilliant album from start to finish. John Martyn himself didn't think this album was as good as their first effort, saying it lacked spontaneity but in my opinion, this album is far superior to their Stormbringer debut. Aside from being husband and wife, John and Beverley Martyn were an excellent match as musicians too. Beverley Martyn has a brilliant voice, it has a unique flow to it. Sadly she never really did any solo work herself after this - her voice is so, so underrated. John Martyn himself is an excellent musician. His guitar playing is first rate, as are his jazzy performances on the piano. His singing on this album is much clearer than in later works where he adopts a more drawling style. There's great incorporation of other instruments on the album such as the saxophone which works very well. Also, the backing musicians which feature in part on this album were those who were to form the nucleus of John Martyn's solo work instrumentation.
The 9 tracks on the album are an excellent mix of folk and jazz styles. 'Primrose Hill' opens with a great piano sequence before Beverley sings the lyrics serenely, with the saxophone cleverly intertwined into her words. 'Parcels' has a style to it which would characterise much of John Martyn's later work, with his characterful acoustic guitar playing. 'Auntie Aviator' is a 6 minute masterpiece and in my opinion is the best on the album. Beverley Martyn sings about flying through the sky and you literally feel as though you are when you listen to it. 'New Day' makes a relaxing acoustic track with a great flute charcterising the track, John Martyn sings this one. 'Give Us A Ring' is much more mellow in its style but it has a great chorus to it with John and Beverley harmonising. 'Sorry to be so long' is much more upbeat with a real jazzy style and is followed by 'Tree Green', more reflective where John Martyn sings about time passing by. 'Say What You Can' is another jazzy track, with a killer piano part and plenty of vocals with real presence from Beverley. 'Road To Ruin' is a great finisher. John Martyn starts this one off very thoughtfully but it progresses in a much more brighter section with a great climax.
'The Road To Ruin' is a classic which many people will not be simply aware of. Its a shame the couple couldn't do any more albums but sadly pressure from John's record company for him to go solo, his drug addiction and subsequent divorce from Beverley prevented this. This is a great album which will not disappoint you - its really relaxing to listen to after a long, hard day. (amazon.com)
This is an awesome album of progressive folk-rock from German group Gurnemanz. Very much in the style of UK folk-rock ala Fairport Convention or Spriguns, singer Manuela Schmitz has an amazing voice and could give Sandy Denny a run for the money!The male vocalist, Lukas W.Scheel, has got a real Fairport-y delivery also. The musicianship is stellar and the songs, whether sung in English or German, are great. The version of John Barleycorn is one of the best I've heard. Not to be missed by anyone who likes the music of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, or Mandy Morton/Spriguns.
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Precious little information about this obscure Irish folk-rock group is available. All I could find was this blurb from the label, Kissing Spell: "Caedmon's privately issued 1978 LP, has since it's rediscovery in 1992, been established as an expensive collectors item, rated as the best folk-rock album ever made, perhaps 2nd only to “Mellow Candle”. The sublime sound of Caedmon results from an unusual blend of styles, the fragile female vocals, admirable use of tension and atmosphere, savage fuzz-guitar, art rock leanings - everything from exquisite understatement to frantic show-off musicianship - a classic, by golly!".
Collecting together all of Hank Williams' recordings done under the name of Luke the Drifter, this is the most preachy, weepy, maudlin album you will ever hear! My God. Little boys' funerals. Alcoholism. Heartbreak. Songs to dead relatives. There is something definitely a little spine tingling, listening to Hank Williams talking and preaching above a churchy organ. You really have to hear this. Well if you're a Hank Williams fan anyway.
Clannad - Clannad 2 (1974)
Here on their second long player, Clannad 2, the family band from Ireland's county Donegal is at their finest. Anchored by the lovely haunting vocals and harp of Maire Ni Bhraonian, with deft backing instrumentation and harmony from her two brothers and twin uncles, Clannad makes deliciously mournful folk rock of traditional tunes. While synthesized New Age territory has become their stock in trade through the group's evolution, the band's early sound puts them in the beloved peer group with the likes of Planxty, Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band, and Steeleye Span. Whistles, electric piano, mandolin, and guitars form the framework for 11 stunning pieces, sung in Irish and complemented by surprisingly tasteful flute leads. Clannad 2, highly recommended, is gently psychedelic Britfolk with a dark medieval undercurrent. (Paige La Grone-amazon.com)
This is a great sounding boot of outtakes from the sessions for "The Times They Are a-Changin", "Another Side of Bob Dylan", and "Bringing It All Back Home". Not really much more to be said I guess - it's Bob Dylan!
Recorded at Watermelon Park, Berryville, VA, this is a great show featuring some bluegrass classics like "Man of Constant Sorrow", "Pretty Polly", "Hills of Roan County" and on and on, seventeen tunes in all. For fans of the high lonesome sound.
Clinch Mountain Boys:
Larry Sparks - guitar
Curly Ray Cline - fiddle
Ed Ferris - bass
Lonnie Bolen - guitar
John Prine - Diamonds In The Rough (1972)
The fireworks that accompanied the appearance of John Prine's 1971 debut cast a long shadow over its deceptively modest follow-up.Diamonds in the Rough admittedly isn't as laden with contemporary folk standards in the making as its predecessor, but it stands with 1978's Bruised Orange as one of Prine's most unified collections. Working in an acoustic setting, the raw-voiced wordsmith explores a melancholy milieu with "The Torch Singer," "Souvenirs," and "Rocky Mountain Time." "Everybody" recounts a conversation with a down-to-earth Almighty while "Billy the Bum" and "Take the Star Out of the Window" focus respectively on a local character and a weary Vietnam vet. Those are all excellent songs, but Diamonds in the Rough's strength lies less in the tunes themselves than in how sympathetically they're performed and sequenced. (Steven Stolder-amazon.com)
This bootleg contains the original tracks of "Shoot Out The Lights", recorded with producer Gerry Rafferty. Richard was disappointed in the results and scrapped the project, recording the album again, starting from scratch, with new producer Joe Boyd. Richard and Linda sometimes swap vocal parts, different instruments are used, lyrics are changed sometimes. A very interesting album that also includes some demo versions and unreleased tracks as bonus material. Every Richard Thompson fan needs this one!
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Steeleye Span - Hark! The Village Wait (1970)
Originally released by British RCA, this debut album by Steeleye Span's original lineup -- Ashley Hutchings (bass), Tim Hart (electric guitar, electric dulcimer, banjo, harmonium, vocals), Maddy Prior (vocals, banjo), Terry Woods (mandola, mandolin, electric guitar, vocals), and Gay Woods (vocals, concertina, bodhran) -- barely made it out the door before Gay and Terry Woods exited. This was probably the best singing edition of Steeleye Span, with Gay Woods and Maddy Prior melding beautifully on tracks like "Dark-Eyed Sailor" and "My Johnnie Was a Shoemaker," and Terry Woods adding some realistic coarseness on "The Hills of Greenmore." The sound is fully electric here (with superb playing on the epic "Lowlands of Holland"), if not as aggressive as later albums -- Hart, Hutchings, and Woods comprise a good core band, and Gerry Conway and Fairport Convention's Dave Mattacks sit in on drums. (Bruce Eder, All Music Guide)
OK that's it for this week!