Exposé Online banner

John Martyn — Live at the Bottom Line, New York 1983
(Voiceprint One World OW116CD, 1983/2001, CD)

John Martyn — Sweet Certain Surprise
(Voiceprint One World OW119CD, 1977/2001, CD)

by Jeff Melton, Published 2002-09-01

Live at the Bottom Line, New York 1983 Cover artSweet Certain Surprise Cover art

What is remarkable in this last set of two live rarities from guitarist and vocalist John Martyn is that the two performances continue to show an expanding range within different periods of the man's thirty years plus career. Sweet Certain Surprise is a semi-legitimate release of well-circulated Martyn bootleg of a 1977 U.S. performance that captures several rare tracks with add-ons. Martyn had just come off a self-imposed performing hiatus that he maintains saved his career and it shows. Acclaimed albums such as Bless the Weather are well represented, as the title track is included along with a delicate version of the live set's opening piece, "Head and Heart." "Man in the Station" from Solid Air received a surprise ovation as the composer describes a train leaving on the tracks homeward bound. Stripped down versions of "My Baby Girl" from Sunday's Child paired with "Certain Surprise" and "Couldn't Love You More" from One World demonstrate the solo performer at his best. Tagged onto to the original boot are four songs from a 1981 full band performance that includes a pulsing rendition of the rare Jamaican tinged track, "Big Muff."

In contrast the 1983 show finds Martyn together with bassist Alan Thomson and drummer Jeffrey Allen at the long established jazz club, the Bottom Line. The set is culled from mostly 80s catalog material except for a few re-worked pieces from Sunday's Child ("Root Love") and the blues standard "I'd Rather be the Devil" from Solid Air. The performance finds the guitarist in his gritty electric mode that characterizes his style of the day. Probably the most effective songs on the disc include "Didn't Do That" (where Martyn sounds uncannily like Eric Johnson of all people) and the bouncy "Johnny Too Bad." Included for good measure is the rare soundtrack piece, "Anna," a slow ballad that bemoans bad luck searching for a lost love. As Martyn is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in his career, there is no doubt that there is certainly plenty of quality material to draw from.


Filed under: New releases, Issue 25, 2001 releases, 1983 recordings, 1977 recordings

Related artist(s): John Martyn

Latest news

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Frogg Café - The Safenzee Diaries – First things first. This is one of the absolute best sounding live albums this writer has heard, made even more surprising because nearly every track across the 2CD set was recorded at a different...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues