Solid Air

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Solid Air
Solid air.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 1973 (1973-02)
RecordedNovember–December 1972
John Martyn chronology
Bless the Weather
Solid Air
Inside Out

Solid Air is the fourth studio album by Scottish folk singer-songwriter John Martyn, released in February 1973 by Island Records.


The album was recorded over eight days and features instrumental contributions by bassist Danny Thompson and members of Fairport Convention.[5][6] "Solid Air", the title track, was dedicated to a friend of Martyn's, Nick Drake, who would die of an antidepressant overdose 18 months after the album was released.[7] Martyn said of the track "It was done for a friend of mine, and it was done right with very clear motives, and I'm very pleased with it, for varying reasons. It has got a very simple message, but you'll have to work that one out for yourself."[8] The album features an avant-garde cover of Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman",[5] here retitled "I'd Rather Be the Devil" and performed with heavy use of Martyn's Echoplex tape delay effect.[6]

"May You Never" became something of a signature song for Martyn, becoming a staple of his live performances. Released in November 1971 as a single in an early form, the song was re-recorded during the Solid Air sessions.[9] Eric Clapton covered "May You Never" on his 1977 album Slowhand. In 2006, Martyn performed the album live in its entirety as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties-curated Don't Look Back series and subsequently toured the UK.

A remastered CD was issued by Universal Records in October 2000. This CD was packaged in a card slipcase, and featured a remastered version of the original album with the addition of a live version of "I'd Rather Be The Devil". Solid Air was given a further remastering and repackaging when a double CD reissue curated by John Hillarby was released in 2009, and which included several alternate studio and live versions.

The album cover is an example of schlieren photography demonstrating the 'solid' nature of air.


Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
American Songwriter[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[11]

Contemporary reviews were favourable, with music weekly Sounds declaring that "Solid Air flows beautifully and shows the entire spectrum of music that John Martyn has at his fingertips."[8] In a retrospective review, American Songwriter described the album as "timeless" and stated that "audacious, hypnotic and groundbreaking only begins to describe Martyn’s still unique combination of folk, jazz, blues and space rock, wrapped around riveting, unforgettable melodies."[5] AllMusic called Solid Air "one of the defining moments of British folk" and noted its genre-blending.[10] BBC Music stated that "it's a classic with not a note out of place.. And ably assisted by John Wood's late night production it's now firmly esconced in the hearts of chillers, smokers and music lovers the world over."[6]

Solid Air was rated as the 67th Greatest British Album Ever by the British music magazine Q, and was also included in their list of Best Chill-Out Albums Of All Time. The album is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery.[13] It was voted number 826 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd Edition (2000).[14]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by John Martyn except where noted.

Side one

  1. "Solid Air" – 5:45
  2. "Over the Hill" – 2:53
  3. "Don't Want to Know" – 3:02
  4. "I'd Rather Be the Devil" (Skip James) – 6:18

Side two

  1. "Go Down Easy" – 3:35
  2. "Dreams by the Sea" – 3:17
  3. "May You Never" – 3:41
  4. "The Man in the Station" – 2:53
  5. "The Easy Blues" – 3:20
  • Note: On the original 1987 CD release of the album, the final track "The Easy Blues" was split into two separate tracks, "Jelly Roll Blues" (2:15) and "Gentle Blues" (1:07). The 2000 remastered reissue lists the track as "The Easy Blues (Jelly Roll Blues/Gentle Blues)", and the 2009 deluxe edition lists it as "The Easy Blues/Gentle Blues".

2000 remastered reissue bonus track[edit]

  1. "I'd Rather Be the Devil" (live) (Skip James) – 6:11

2009 Deluxe Edition[edit]

Disc 1

As original album.

Disc 2

  1. "Solid Air" (alternative take) – 5:48
  2. "Over the Hill" (alternative take) – 3:28
  3. "Don't Want to Know" (alternative take) – 3:26
  4. "I'd Rather Be the Devil" (alternative take) (Skip James) – 7:39
  5. "Go Down Easy" (alternative take) – 4:55
  6. "Dreams by the Sea" (alternative take) – 3:22
  7. "May You Never" (alternative take) – 3:33
  8. "The Man in the Station" (alternative take) – 5:32
  9. "The Easy Blues/Gentle Blues" (alternative take) – 4:49
  10. "Keep On" – 4:57
  11. "When It's Dark" – 8:36
  12. "In the Evening" – 4:04
  13. "May You Never" (single version) – 2:43
  14. "The Easy Blues" (live) – 3:24
  15. "May You Never" (live) – 3:39
  16. "I'd Rather Be the Devil" (live) (Skip James) – 8:33




  1. ^ Fielder, Hugh (19 September 2016). "The 10 Essential Folk Rock Albums". Classic Rock. TeamRock. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  2. ^ Various Mojo Magazine (1 November 2007). The Mojo Collection: 4th Edition. Canongate Books. p. 302. ISBN 978-1-84767-643-6.
  3. ^ "20 Best Folk Music Albums of All Time". NME. Time Inc. UK. 7 June 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Illuminations – Buffy Sainte-Marie – Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Horowitz, Hal. "John Martyn: Solid Air". American Songwriter. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Jones, Chris. "John Martyn: Solid Air". BBC Music. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  7. ^ "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die", Robert Dimery, 2005, p.190
  8. ^ a b "The Official John Martyn Website | Maverick singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire!". Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  9. ^ "The Official John Martyn Website | Maverick singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire!". Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  10. ^ a b Solid Air at AllMusic
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  12. ^ Fatali, Liberi. "John Martyn - Solid Air (album review)". Sputnikmusic.
  13. ^ " Parker...1001 Albums". Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  14. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 257. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.

External links[edit]