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Piece by Piece
Island Records ILPS 9807 (1986)

Piece by Piece -John Martyn

Album available as:-
(Island IMCD68)

Other Releases:
(Canada Island ISL 1083, Germany/ Holland Island 207 634-630, Island CID 9807)

Piece by Piece was the second album recorded by Martyn after his return to Island Records after a seven year absence. During this time, his releases on other labels had seen most of any rough edges smoothed off and his guitar playing become almost non-existent. The lighter jazz/pop style which had begun on Grace and Danger had taken over. Keyboardist Foster Paterson was a prominent contributor to the songs on Piece By Piece, which are a mix of the instantly memorable and the soon forgettable. The title song, written by Paterson, is one of the memorable ones. Elsewhere on the album, "Lonely Love" is Martyn at his breeziest and is the happiest sounding you're likely to hear him; "Angeline" is a sublime love song and has the honour of being the first CD single ever released; "John Wayne" would become a staple of his live shows. The rest of the songs, while not bad, do not stand out as these tracks do. Even so, Island pulled out all the stops in promoting the album and a blizzard of materials, including singles, a box-set interview, a tour program, and a press kit were issued. As a result, the album did respectably well in sales and even spawned a live album, Foundations, from the resulting tour. First pressings of the CD had four extra songs on the end ("Tight Connection to My Heart," "Solid Air," "One World," "May You Never"), making it quite collectable.

- Rob Caldwell (AMG)


Piece By Piece was released in February 1986.
To celebrate John's 20th Anniversary as a performer and in the hope of securing elusive radio air play time, Island released Classic John Martyn at the same time. This was the first commercially available cd single and featured the tracks Angeline, May You Never, Solid Air, Glistening Glyndebourne and a cover of Dylan's Tight Connection To My Heart.

A 12 inch single of Classic John Martyn was also released but with different tracks Angeline, Tight Connection To My Heart, May You Never, Certain Surprise and One Day Without You.
Island also released Angeline/Tight Connection To My Heart as a single.
The album itself featured the powerful John Wayne, complete with typically ambiguous lyrics and what John describes as his 'strangled duck' vocal. To achieve the effect Johnindulged large quantities of liquid refreshment and did the vocal track in a single take. The track pushed his vocal style to new limits and is a song that he likes to perform live. John has said that the track was written for an ex-manager who he was rather unhappy with at the time!
The album was mainly the product of a liaison with Foster Patterson who wrote the title track. This was another stab at gaining the commercial success and popular recognition, which had so far escpaed John's grasp. Other musicians included Alan Thomson (bass), Danny Cummings (percussion) and Colin Tully (saxophone).
The early cd's of Piece By Piece included four extra tracks: Tight Connection to my Heart, Solid Air, One World and May You Never. This 13-track cd has now been replaced by a standard 9-track version and is hard to find.
In March 1986 Island released Lonely Love, described by John as "the album's little pop song", as a single in 7 inch with Sweet Little Mystery (live) on the b-side. The 12 inch version featured a live recording of Fisherman's Dream and Sweet Little Mystery on the b side.

Island produced a Piece By Piece promotional boxed set which included 2 interview discs, a copy of the 12 inch Classic John Martyn single and a promotional booklet. John is in conversation with Trevor Dann and talks about his life, his views and the background to many of his songs. This is a rare item and was only produced in a very small number. In many years as a fan I've only ever seen one copy and that one now resides in my collection!
John on Piece By Piece, "..it's a bit more mature and sophisticated, what do you expect from a 37 year old man? It's not going to be raucous and punkish, hardly going to have the U2 feel about it."
"What I've tried to do is sing more than play, and have fun with some new sounds, like the strangled duck (on John Wayne). I've been trying to sing better for the last few years and push myself in a certain direction. I always find the vocals more difficult to get right in the studio, they're better live, generally. To get the effect I wanted on the track John Wayne I had to go out and get totally rat-arsed, and then I did it on one take. Great effect."
John provided the soundtrack to Tyne Tees Televisions major series on the environment, Turning the Tide. Broadcast in Autumn 1986 the moving title song was loosely based on I Don't Want to Know About Evil but with a new musical arrangement and adapted lyrics. The series ran over budget and plans to release a soundtrack were scrapped though there are some tapes in existence.

- John Hillarby (The John Martyn Website)


Track Listing:

1. Nightline (Martyn) - 5:04
2. Lonely Love (Martyn) - 3:22
3. Angeline (Martyn) - 4:54
4. One Step Too Far (Martyn) - 3:18
5. Piece By Piece (Paterson) - 3:56
6. Serendipity (Martyn) - 4:08
7. Who Believes In Angels (Martyn) - 4:56
8. Love Of Mine (Martyn) - 4:47
9. John Wayne (Martyn) - 6:55


John Martyn - Guitar, Vocals, Harmonica, Keyboards







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