Top Fifty 12: John Martyn – Inside Out, 1973

[Originally posted March 2013]


Sublime Inside Out and Anywhere Else

This is a cheat as I have already posted in September, 2011 what follows from the next paragraph [frightening flight of time], but as I recently acknowledged regarding the first three Jimi Hendrix albums – and even perhaps the first three Quintessence albums considering my most recent posts – there are artists whose work must appear in my Top Fifty, and John’s seven studio albums from numbers 5-11 have to be there: omission and inclusion of others at their expense is simply pratting around with variety rather than honest application of feeling as well as actual playing time.

John’s fifth solo album [seventh studio], released in 1973, this sublime collection marks the beginnings of his musical trajectory towards jazzier writing/performance and the use of his voice as a distinctive instrument to match his peerless guitar playing. The songs are bolstered by Danny Thompson’s supreme double bass playing as well as by luminaries like Steve Winwood on keyboards and Chris Wood on saxophone.

First track Fine Lines is a beautiful melodic song in John’s inimitable folk-acoustic style, but the slur in the voice that will become so prevalent across this whole album and all future work has its incipient roots here. Third Ain’t No Saint signals the much more experimental writing too: a jazz-chant about Love [as John writes comically and always somewhat self-effacingly, as if his seriousness shouldn’t be taken that seriously: love…love…love…love…tra la la…triddly dee dee], the voice oozes this word over dancing acoustic riffs with tabla and other energetic percussion provided by Remi Kabaka.

Inverted title and fourth track Outside In makes psychedelic use of the signature Echoplex that John perfected, especially when playing live. This song is gloriously expansive in its guitar range and with Thompson’s bass dancing in and out of the groove. The saxophone puts in layers of slow romantic jazz with John’s punchy bursts of more chanted love, it is love, guitar now echoing and looping its waterfalls of sweet chord sequences, until the voice growls and shouts out in ecstasy. John has spoken of the inspiration behind such a sound:

I don’t think I would have done some of the stuff on Inside Out if I hadn’t heard ‘Karma’ [‘Karma’ by Pharoah Sanders, released in 1969]. The only reason I bought the Echoplex was to try and imitate Sanders’ sustain on my guitar…I pursued the fuzz box and its various accompanying things just to try and get the sustain that you can get from a sax. I just really wanted infinite sustain at the press of a button. And I almost achieved it. And it sounded so sweet to me. And I knew that people would like to hear it because nothing like it was around. If it makes me feel good, I kind of have this touching faith that it’s going to stay with somebody else.

Sixth track Look In is a fuzzed-up rock gem, and the Martyn growl continues to mature, though the song finishes on his delicate best. Beverley is a beautiful instrumental for then wife, with Thompson’s bowed bass perhaps full of lament under the acoustic core and then gorgeous straining electric lead. Eighth Make No Mistake is classic Martyn songcraft but with the voice again working through more range and variation, and this too ends on a love-chant

A love
Love again
A love supreme, divine
Anyway that you want it to be
Love – Its love, its love
Love! Love! Love!
A love supreme, a love supreme
A love supreme, a love supreme

Make no mistake,
Make no mistake, its love
Make no mistake, its love
Make no mistake, its love…


Penultimate track Ways To Cry is starkly emotive in its honest, complex message If I ever took another woman I was in my need for you/If I ever took another woman I was bleeding for you, and last track So Much In Love With You signs off on a pure-jazz, voice-hazed declaration that not only indelibly brands his love-statement into our aural consciousness, but fully establishes the direction of so much of his future sublime music.

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