John Martyn was a giant of music. A jazz. folk, rock psychedelic legend. He was not a particularly pleasant human being apparently. He did however make some of the most amazing and incendiary albums and possibly one of the greatest live albums ever.
Live at Leeds was originally an album released independently by John Martyn and sold from his own home. It has since been rereleased and repackaged on CD and vinyl expanded and Deluxed. I have a reissue of the original album. I am not sure how I feel about the deluxes of the world when I am so used to the album itself.
The music on Live At Leeds is loud and violent, soft and seductive and grooving and funky and sensual and dirty and aggressive and soothing. It’s all of those things at the same time. Meandering through the echoplex canyons of John Martyn’s mind. Three musicians, Danny Thompson, John Stevens and John Martyn make all that noise veering from jazz improvisation to psychedelic freak outs most of the album is improvised and on the edge of collapse at times.
Mostly tonight it takes me back to a field in Suffolk where in the space of three hours I saw Bert Jansch, John Martyn and Roy Harper at the gloriously titled Suffolk and Good Festival. There was oat ale and roasted goat on home made bread and it was so hot we ended up swimming in the river Glem I believe although I could be wrong. We arrived jet lagged and tired and had forgotten out flashlight, we had however remembered the Belgian beer and the infamous brown and orange festival tent. We had to fend off three or four offers to purchase the tent that weekend. It was a tiny festival 3,000 people and we had driven a considerable distance to see Roy Harper ostensibly, it seemed like a good idea I am sure. The downer of the whole event was the Strawbs that headlined, however how could they follow Jansch, Martyn and Harper.
It was a different Marty in Suffolk than on this album, the essence of the music was the same, exploratory and surprising.