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Solid Air

John Martyn

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iTunes Editors’ Notes

Though he cut over 20 albums in his 60 years, 1973's Solid Air is the one for which British folk singer John Martyn will be most remembered. The detuned, buzzing E string of his acoustic guitar and the subtle jazz arches infused instrumentally throughout gave Solid Air a mellow warmth unlike any of his prior works. A beautifully haunting title track opens, affixing a bewitching tone — the song was penned for Martyn's friend, the celebrated Nick Drake, who died 18 months following the album's release. "Over the Hill" follows with an infectious sing-along melody and break-up lyrics that are both moving and darkly scathing. Richard Thompson's mandolin plays a prominent role here and all through Solid Air he provides guitar, violin, and autoharp. Martyn used an Echoplex analogue tape delay on his stunning rendition of Skip James' "I'd Rather Be the Devil," though the album is usually recognized for "May You Never." Should it sound familiar to the uninitiated, thank Eric Clapton who covered it on his 1977 album Slowhand. Not even a month before his passing, Martyn was awarded an Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in January of 2009.

Customer Reviews

Have you been living on solid air?

In the late 60s and early 70s, producer Joe Boyd's Witchseason Productions released a string of recordings that seemed to emanate from an ecclectic musical world where traditional musical boundaries simply didn't exist. "Solid Air" may well represent the highest artistic achievement of this era, rivalled only by Nick Drake's recordings. From the first notes on accoustic guitar and double bass that glide you gently into the title song, Martyn and a stellar group of musicians sustain a weightless, hypnotic atmosphere that is consistently and apprently effortlessly sustained throughout the entire recording. Instruments come and go as needed, creating a richly-human and organic accompaniment to Martyn's voice as he moves from song to song and from emotion to emotion. And what a voice! By turns rasping, honey-smooth, screaming, hypnotically droning and a thousand shades in between, it is really the lead instrument on every track. Impeccably produced and recorded, there isn't an off note or a mediocre song in sight. In other words, a classic. If you like Tim Buckley's "Happy/Sad" or Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks", then "Solid Air" has been waiting patiently for more than thirty years. Martyn's other recordings are well worth exploring, but start here.

Great Classic

this is a classic and a perfect love song. This cut has great sound.


I'd never even heard of John Martyn, but I came upon "May You Never" serendipitously. I can't stop listening to it. It's so beautiful. Sheer perfection.


Born: September 11, 1948 in New Malden, Surrey, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Singer/songwriter/guitarist John Martyn was born Iain David McGeachy on September 11, 1948, in New Malden, Surrey, and raised in Glasgow by his grandmother. He began his innovative and expansive career at the age of 17 with a style influenced by American blues artists such as Robert Johnson and Skip James, the traditional music of his homeland, and the eclectic folk of Davey Graham (Graham remained an influence and idol of Martyn's throughout his career). With the aid of his mentor, traditional singer...
Full Bio