The Four Martins / Martins 4
01 : La Pasion del Lamento
02 : Kwame/Kiko
03 : Jasper Songbird/Spoonful
04 : Glass of Water
05 : Rumba Nostalgica and La Feria
06 : Hymn a L’Amour
07 : Heather Down the Moor
08 : Vuelo
09 : Barrack Street Stroll
10 : Evocacion – De Damascus a Cordoba DVD Bonus Track
11 : Rose of Allendale Medley DVD Bonus Track
12 : I Sowed Some Seeds DVD Bonus Track
Interviews: Martin Carthy, Martin Taylor, Juan Martin & Martin Simpson
Exclusive guitar lesson from Martin Taylor
DVD first released in the UK and USA 2003 by P3 Music P3M008 in double-sided (PAL/NTSC) format.
CD first issued in the UK 2003 by P3 Music P3M012
DVD reissued in 2004 by Lyric Vine Records LV20040847 on NTSC format only
Martin Carthy: guitar, vocals
Martin Simpson: guitar, vocals
Martin Taylor: guitar
Juan Martin: guitar
Recorded live at the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow*
* No recording date is given on the sleeve, but this concert took place on 1 November 2002
All 12 of the tracks listed appear on both the CD and DVD versions but tracks 10 to 12 are programmed as individually selectable ‘bonus tracks’ on the DVD.
A quality visual record of the first 4 Martins UK tour ought to be an essential purchase for anyone who has witnessed this quartet in action. What could have been a disastrous combination of styles and approaches to guitar playingÊ – seemingly linked only by the tenuous (just about) sharing of the same name – turned out to be a joyous celebration of acoustic music as a unifying force. The size of the venues on the tour – large theatres in the main – meant that the majority of audiences inevitably turned out to see Juan Martin or Martin Taylor. No problem. In fact this ended up being good news for Martins Carthy and Simpson who got to play sizable venues to mainly new audiences and whose fans got to see them in comfortably large surroundings with (mostly) excellent sound reproduction.
So what’s the problem with this Guitar Nights DVD? Well, put simply it fails on almost every level to either represent what those live shows were about – the intimacy of the individual performances and the excitement and freshness of new collaborations – or to offer anything worthwhile to fans of the individual artists. The live shows gave us short solo sets from each Martin before a collaborative hour-or-so which saw songs and tunes swapped freely in sometimes-happily under-rehearsed fashion (that under-rehearsed factor curiously reproduced on their subsequent second tour, incidentally). What we get on this DVD is 70 minutes that mixes solo and group efforts into an altogether unsatisfactory whole. It’s not that the individual performances are bad by any stretch of the imagination – Carthy’s Glass Of Water and Simpson’s Jasper Songbird/Spoonful in particular are both standout selections – but the lack of structure and the failure to contextualise individual tracks serve to undo what the live performances achieved by mixing genres and techniques.
The device of fading each track in and out only emphasises the lack of context, as does the absence of on-stage introductions to any of the songs. This is a real pity because the ultimate impression you get from this DVD is much too polite and formal: the real guts of the live performances and the often seat-of-the-pants bravado of the whole enterprise are sadly lost.
The whole thing is not entirely futile though. For Carthy fans there’s a unique performance of Sydney Carter’s Glass Of Water (as a four-piece), a solo Heather Down The Moor and – one of the DVD extras – a nice rendition of I Sowed Some Seeds. You also get interesting – but all-too-brief – interviews with all four protagonists discussing different aspects of the project; a short guitar lesson from Martin Taylor; biographies and a photo gallery. Sound quality is excellent throughout and the picture quality as a whole – despite some pretty bland stage lighting – is more than adequate.
Overall though, it’s a disappointing package. It’s hard to see how it could satisfy fans of either if the individual musicians involved. The inclusion of Glass Of Water makes it an essential purchase for Carthy completists but there’s little else here for the casual fan.