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Album Review

Various artists contribute to ‘Johnny Boy Would Love This . . . A Tribute to John Martyn’

By Steve Morse
August 16, 2011

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A notable array of big-name acts - from Phil Collins and the Cure’s Robert Smith to Beth Orton and Beck - appear on this classy new tribute to John Martyn, a Scotsman who was ahead of his time in bringing electronic tape-delay effects to folk music in the ’70s. He was known better in England, due to Eric Clapton recording his signature song, “May You Never.’’ Oddly enough, the flat version here by the band Snow Patrol is the only major misstep on this 30-track, surprisingly cohesive double album. The project more typically shines with David Gray’s elegantly dramatic “Let the Good Things Come,’’ Smith’s trip-hoppy “Small Hours,’’ Beck’s mood-shifting “Stormbringer,’’ and Collins’s emotive “Tearing and Breaking.’’ The successes keep coming with Sonia Dada’s bluesy “Dancing,’’ Paolo Nutini’s affecting “One World,’’ and Skye Edwards of Morcheeba adding a spacey “Solid Air,’’ which Martyn wrote about his housemate and folkie friend Nick Drake. Several British cult figures also lend their pipes, including Judie Tzuke and Vashti Bunyan. As tributes go, this one rates high marks. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “Solid Air’’