The jazz underbelly of Martyn’s music, especially in live performance, is plump and fulsome on this wonderful 1991 Bristol recording, and having this limited edition cd now [just purchased] is some recompense for the nonsense of my having missed going at the time: only up the road really, and I should have known it was on.
It is a superb recording of a superb show. The band is occupied by Martyn stalwarts of this period: Alan Thompson on bass, John Henderson on drums, Andy Sheppard on saxes, and Spencer Cozens on keyboards. Absolutely stonking.
And Martyn is in fine form: mixing his wonderful banter with beautiful playing. He affects an American announcer’s voice at times, especially paradoxical – comically so – as he foregrounds Couldn’t Love You More, and then when he starts, is wholly immersed in the tender emotion of this great song; similarly so with a less lengthy intro for Sweet Little Mystery: and as so often, the mocking, self-effacing comment at the end of a sentimental and serious song - a funny voice about its cheerfulness.
Elsewhere, the band punch out the most rousing jazz backdrops; also ominous as on John Wayne, Sheppard in particular quite outstanding, towering Cozens keyboards, and John’s guitar sneering fuzz. His vocal by this stage in his career, and on jazzier numbers like this, the other superlative instrument. The pumping band riffs on Johnny Too Bad stir the blood.
Cooltide – ‘in the middle of being written....this is a bit of a shifter…a groove thing to send you home feeling cool’ – is a penultimate grooved funk; and this recording concludes on John in mock announcer’s voice again, ‘not a dry eye in the house’, lounge whistling, then the prettiest version of Never Let Me Go [stated as Let Me Love You Tonight on back cover], Martyn’s vocal making me well up as only listening to him can continue to make me so pathetically prone.