MARTYN JOSEPH – 1960 (Pipe Records PRCD034)

1960Martyn Joseph was born in 1960 and is now sixty years old – a pleasing synchronicity (or should that be symmetry?) that just had to be exploited in an album full of memories, both happy and regretful. Recorded…well, you know… this is a record in Martyn’s quieter, thoughtful style – although he can rock with just an acoustic guitar – on which he necessarily does most of the work with just a few guests here and there, notably Nigel Hopkins, who provides keyboards, and Janis Ian, who plays piano and sings on one track.

The opening track, ‘Born Too Late’, is a wryly melancholic song as Martyn reflects on the fact that he was too young to hang out with Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash in California in 1971 and asks the key question “How long does it take for a man to know himself?”. ‘Felt So Much’ is about childhood memories but later, ‘Trying To Grow’ finds him closer to an answer to that existential question with some brutal self-analysis but with ‘Under Every Smile’ – lovely trumpet by Rupert Cobb here – and ‘In Your Arms’ he is still searching for something.

‘Shadow Boxing’ is a song for and about Martyn’s father, now in a nursing home, and a playful bout of shadow boxing that brought back childhood memories and became one of the starting points of the whole record. “The bottom line is love”, he sings in the final chorus. “You taught me that.

You may call me an old softy but I found 1960 very sad and moving so much so that, after the first play, I wasn’t sure that I could listen to it again – certainly not immediately. The final track, ‘This Light Is Ours’, no doubt inspired by Martyn’s religious beliefs, brings a measure of positivity but he adds, unannounced, a version of ‘Wichita Lineman’. He takes Jimmy Webb’s ode to the lonesome outdoor man with its country vibe and turns it into a cri de coeur to his woman to stay with him. It was hearing Glen Campbell’s version that prompted the ten year old Martyn Joseph to take up the guitar and this brings us back to the beginning of his story.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Born Too Late’ – official video:

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