John Martyn has released 22 studio albums and countless live and compilation discs since his recording debut in 1967, yet he has remained largely a cult figure outside of Britain and Europe. Tutored by Hamish Imlach, and originally presented as a folksinger and guitarist in the tradition of Bert Jansch and Davey Graham, Martyn has continually reinvented himself over the years, eventually going mostly electric. Along the way he became one of the first to combine electric bass and drums with acoustic guitar, fuse folk and jazz, explore reggae flavored proto-trip-hop (via collaborations with Lee “Scratch” Perry), and help pioneer world fusion. He was also one of the only guitarists to fully integrate the Echoplex into his compositions, including using its three-minute sound-on-sound recording capabilities for live looping beginning about 1970.
Here, Martyn mostly plays a Martin acoustic with a soundhole pickup through a Fender Twin Reverb. His pedalboard contains a Big Muff, a Mutron III, a Phase 100, and a Boomerang volume/wah pedal. An Echoplex EP-3 sits atop the amp just behind him. The scope of Martyn’s musical mastery is breathtaking. One moment he’s singing a folksy love ballad; the next entering deep Echoplex space with Mutron-hyped volume-pedal swells, percussive riffs, and Muff-sustained soloing; the next firing off flashy fingerstyle Celtic licks as he modulates by repeatedly repositioning his capo mid-riff—and that’s not to mention the Brazilian, Flamenco, pop, blues, rock, and avant garde excursions. Freaking awesome.—Barry Cleveland
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