Review 7: Living on solid air


Solid Air
John Martyn
Nominated by Clive Featherstone

You shouldn’t listen to Solid Air while you’re doing the ironing. It demands your full attention, and it definitely improves after a glass of wine.

This folk-jazz album is one of the most critically acclaimed British records of the early 1970s and the guitar playing is fantastic, but I struggled to really enjoy it as a whole, even after the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Can I say it was good, but that I didn’t really like it?

Let’s be clear – it’s not him, it’s me. He’s an electrifying guitarist and singer, who blurred the boundaries between folk, jazz, rock and blues. The recorder was the peak of my musical accomplishment. What do I know?

I wanted to shout ‘stop mumbling!’.  I got annoyed when a well-formed song dissolved into a dubby free-form … something. I almost really enjoyed a lot of it – much of the music was brilliant – but the vocals kept tripping me up. Where are you going? Come back, that was good!

I always like to know where the exits are, and I guess I like to know where songs are going too. This album needs more time, and probably more red wine, to reveal its form and fire escapes to me. I’d recommend you try it.

As an aside, the album cover is an example of schlieren photography, which demonstrates the ‘solid’ nature of air. I think I can grasp that.

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