Friday, June 13, 2014
Beverley Martyn – The Phoenix and The Turtle / Led Zeppelin / Bob Mould
This perception of the “tortured artist” does tend to fuel the music press from time to time – especially if there is some connection to an album or two. Witness the fixation of Richard and Linda Thompson’s “Shoot Out The Lights” album – and I don’t even consider it their best, but the press loves the sordid tale of their breakup still! Last year I read a bit of information about the late folk-jazz-rock acoustic guitar pioneer John Martyn. I read that he had a great “breakup album” like Richard Thompson had in his catalog. I tracked down a nice copy of Martyn’s “Grace and Danger” on vinyl.
As I read the excerpts on the website I marveled at what promise her early career as a singer held. She had connections to both English folk-rock icons and American folk-rock icons all before she met John Martyn. In fact, not long after the pair were married, Beverley was booked to record an album in the US in Woodstock, New York in 1969 with folks like Levon Helm and other heavy hitters on the scene. Her husband tagged along (naturally), contributed more than some backing guitar and the record was eventually released as a joint effort. Here’s the result:
Beverley spent many years rebuilding the connections to her own art and, as I read last summer, she was readying a new album due to be released in early 2014. Before I even heard a note of her music I immediately pre-ordered the album. I cannot explain why her story moved me so profoundly, but I just knew this was a new record I needed to hear. But I had to wait. In the meantime I tracked down the “Stormbringer” album pictured above. I found a nice white-label promo copy – a really sweet disc!
Let me mention that Beverley’s vocal style on this early record is wholly unique to any other female singer I’ve heard. Her songwriting style is direct and insightful as well. There’s a wonderful balance between technique and intimacy in her approach that is quite fascinating. I’m still looking for the second LP release from this era – “Road to Ruin”. In fact, there are a few other bits and bobs of her recordings – a few early singles and at least one CD from the 90s – yet her out put has been criminally small compared to the stature of her talent. This makes her new album all the more necessary to hear!
I can also recommend the book I mentioned above – “Sweet Honesty”. I don’t want to retell any of the fascinating details of her quite amazing life. Her prose is far more effective and there are some wonderful stories along with the heartbreaks. In my opinion, Beverley Martyn’s new LP is right in the same class with Guy Clark’s new album (the one that earned him a Grammy last year). I think it would be fantastic if Clark and Beverley were able to do some shows around the US together. That would be a dream gig for me to see indeed! Do yourself a favor and check out Beverley’s new album – she’s a treasure!
Fascinating to note the spiffy typeface used on Beverley’s album cover – what I call “Led Zeppelin font” since it was used prominently on their “Houses of the Holy” album. This together with the “Levee Breaks” connection got me thinking about how I’d also ordered the latest Led Zeppelin deluxe LP sets from the UK as well. I had read a lot about major quality discrepancies between domestic (US) copies of reissued albums versus their UK counterparts and for the new Zeppelin platters I didn’t want to take any chances. Oddly enough, each of the three LP sets arrived separately – thankfully all intact with no major problems just like Beverely’s album. Man, ordering vinyl from that far away is a hair-raising proposition just due to the distance alone. So far my luck’s been good in that department.
Ah, so much great inspirational music these days. I’m sure looking forward to the summer months when I can get a little extra listening and reflecting in. As always, keep those vibrations percolating through the atmosphere and spread those good vibes, people! Bright Moments!