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John Martyn - Foundations

John Martyn - Foundations

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Genre: rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title:  Foundations
Company: Island
Catalog: 90853-1
Year: 1986
Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: --
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 317
Price: $9.00

Best time to play: Late Saturday evening after everyone's gone to bed.
A nine track live set, 1986's "Foundations" captured John Martyn and his touring band on the road in support of his previous "Sapphire" and "Piece By Piece" studio collections. Recorded at Londom's forum, it was kind of iInteresting that only four tracks ('Mad Dog Days', 'Over the Rainbow', 'Angeline', and 'John Wayne') were pulled from those two previous studio albums. The rest of the set was rounded out by older Martyn classics ('May You Never') and a couple of songs for his next studio album ('Deny This Love', 'Send Me One Line', and 'The Apprentice'). To be honest, anyone who was a fan of Martyn's '60s and '70s catalog was likely to find this kind of an odd album with Island executives apparently working under the assumption they could pawn Martyn off to an audience that was into adult contemporary pop and slightly new age-ish moves. Noting Martyn was wearing expensive suits, stylish dark sunglasses and wearing his hair in a pony tail, left you under the impression he was willing to go along with marketing moves. In spite of the dated sound (the collection epitamizes that '80s sound),, personally I didn't think it was all that bad. Certainly not something you'd want to spin everyday, but it had a place in Martyn's lengthy catalog.
"Foundations" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Mad Dog Days (John Martyn) - 6:02
One of two songs off the earlier "Sapphire" album, yeah, his voice sounded very much like Joe Cocker's and the song had a distinctive '80s feel (complete with adult contemporary sax), but all told 'Mad Dog Days' wasn't bad - kind of a Miami Vice background music vibe. The song also benefited from a nice Martyn guitar solo. The end-of-song dedication to Margaret Thatcher was funny. YouTube has a live performance of the song at: rating: *** stars
2.) Angeline (John Martyn) - 5:28
Off of the "Piece By Piece" LP, 'Angeline' was one of his prettier ballads, though the vocal was a bit rough and once again the '80s arrangement (including Colin Tully's tasteful sax solo) gave if a needless Phil Collins-esque feel. YouTube has another clip from the 1986 Foundations tour: rating: *** stars
3.) The Apprentice (John Martyn) - 4:50
Hum, Martyn gets slinky and funky ... well as slinky and funky as a middle aged white guy can get. Give it a B-. This YouTube clip's from an early '90s tour. rating: *** stars
4.) May You Never (John Martyn) - 4:10
Yes, dating back to 1971 (he re-recorded it for 1973's "Solid Air" LP), 'May You Never' was one of his best known songs, but to be honest, I'm not sure the full band arrangement added much to the overall effect. I'd actually argue that the song lost much of its appeal amidst this MOR arrangement.   rating: *** stars
5.) Deny This Love (John Martyn) - 4:32
I guess 'Deny This Love' was the album's most commercial track (a couple of years later if was released as a UK single). Technically it was quite good, but it sounded like one of those songs that had been with top-40 airplay in mind. Very calculated and cold. Not sure if it's live since it's only Martyn and keyboardist Foster Patterson, but there's a cool performance video of the duo playing the song in an abandoned Glasgow subway station: rating: *** stars

(side 2)
1.) Send Me One Line (John Martyn) - 5:03
One of the 'new' songs, 'Send Me One Line' was another pretty ballad, but suffered from a gravelly vocal - Martyn literally sounded like he was singing with a mouth full of marbles on this one. rating: *** stars
2.) John Wayne (John Martyn) - 7:38
'John Wayne' is one of those Martyn songs that's puzzled me - I'm not sure if it's great, or seven minutes of U2-styled pomposity. Definitely one of his stranger tunes. This isn't from the "Foundations" tour, but was worth linking to since the performance includes support from guitarist David Gilmour: rating: *** stars
3.) Johnny Too Bad  (Bailey - Beckford - Crooks - John Martyn) - 6:50
Martyn and company decide to rock out ... sounds odd, but the results were actually quite impressive. YouTube has a live performance of the song (recorded a couple of years later): rating: *** stars
4.) Somewhere Over the Rainbow (H. Arlen - E. Harburg) - 6:08
I know Martyn fans rave over his cover of the classic 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', but the somg's attraction is completely lost on my ears. Here it sounds dark and biitert rather than a song of hope and redemption. rating: *** stars
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