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

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



The album was recorded over eight days and features instrumental contributions by bassist Danny Thompson and members of Fairport Convention.[4][5] "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.[6] 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."[7] The album features an avant-garde cover of Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman,"[4] here retitled "I'd Rather Be the Devil" and performed with heavy use of Martyn's Echoplex tape delay effect.[5]

"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.[8] Eric Clapton covered "May You Never" on his 1977 album Slowhand. When Martyn was presented with a lifetime achievement award by Phil Collins (a collaborator of Martyn's) at the 2008 BBC Folk Awards, Clapton sent a message saying that he was "so far ahead of everything else it was inconceivable" and acknowledged the extent of his influence on "everyone who ever heard him."[9][10] Martyn and his band, including John Paul Jones on mandolin, played "May You Never" and "Over The Hill" at the Awards Ceremony.[11] 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
AllMusic     [12]
American Songwriter     [4]

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."[7] In a positive review, Melody Maker stated that "there is a concentration upon timbre, building up into some very extraordinary landscapes," and wrote that "he has become far more confident about giving his voice free reign [sic], and the result is greatly to his advantage."[citation needed] In a retrospective review, American Songwriter described the album "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."[4] AllMusic called Solid Air "one of the defining moments of British folk" and noted its genre-blending.[12] 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."[5]

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]

Track listingEdit

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 trackEdit

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

2009 Deluxe EditionEdit

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 (September 19, 2016). "The 10 Essential Folk Rock Albums". Classic Rock. TeamRock. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
  2. ^ Various Mojo Magazine (2007-11-01). 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. ^ a b c d Horowitz, Hal. "John Martyn: Solid Air". American Songwriter. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Jones, Chris. "John Martyn: Solid Air". BBC Music. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  6. ^ "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die", Robert Dimery, 2005, p.190
  7. ^ a b "The Official John Martyn Website | Maverick singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire!". Retrieved 2014-07-26.
  8. ^ "The Official John Martyn Website | Maverick singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire!". Retrieved 2014-07-26.
  9. ^ "John Martyn". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-07-26.
  10. ^ "Press Office - John Martyn picks up Lifetime Achievement Award at Radio 2 Folk Awards". BBC. 2008-02-04. Retrieved 2014-07-26.
  11. ^ "Radio 2 - Folk Awards 2008 - Report". BBC. Retrieved 2014-07-26.
  12. ^ a b Solid Air at AllMusic
  13. ^ " Parker...1001 Albums". Retrieved 2014-07-26.

External linksEdit