Martyn Joseph – 1960: Album Review

The 23rd album from Martyn Joseph finds him in contemplative mood, coming to understand who he is and what life is. 1960 is nothing less than a beautiful record.

martyn joseph

Release Date: 19th November 2021

Label: Pipe Records

Format: CD / digital

For Martyn Joseph, the new album, 1960, represents a landmark birthday, a year of isolation and a period of self-examination. 1960 is a set of songs that could only be written now. A ‘coming of age’ album. “The road ahead is shorter than the one behind,” he says. A sobering thought. A chance for MJ (and ultimately for us too) to think “what have I made of this life…what might I have done differently?” Even more sobering.

It all spills out out in what, on the surface, is a very low key, meditative and reflective album. In the search for key moments, the title track immediately offer plenty of clues. The weariness of the feeling of being ‘born too late’ comes inspired by Art Garfunkel as the pair toured together in the Nineties. Trademark Joseph reflection and questioning evolves in verses where he explores the bigger picture accompanied by some organ carried on the breeze of that very Nashville ambience espoused by Garfunkel.

The wash of melancholy comes in subtle brass lines, gently tumbling guitar notes and perhaps the most understated vocal delivery of his career, yet the result is all the better for it. There’s less of his inspirational fist pumping fervour. That’s how less equates to so much more. It’s what these songs need and what they deserve. Intimate and piercing, these are songs built for a sepia vision.

The piano keyboard presence is strong throughout the record. It adds a strength and almost gospel power to Trying To Grow and on Shadow Boxing takes a rare excursion as the lead instrument. The latter will surely take its rightfull place in his legacy as a major achievement and one that’s possibly the stand out if not the key track. Not quite as obvious as Peter Gabriel’s Father Son, but a similar sentiment. It’s MJ at his most Springsteen-esque where the “the bottom line is love” – it always has been.

By contrast, the underrated MJ guitar style gets a break in Under Every Smile along with a cool brass line. And then there’s the thought that while we may be made of stars, some day we’ll be “dispersed across the ether like supermarket trollies, stacked one against the other.

Not often will you find Martyn Joseph coming up with a seven minute track. However, he throws a curveball with This Light Is Ours where he provides another of his inspirational gems in the “the light will shine on all of us – not just for the few” line with a pinch of harp thrown in. One for the end of the evening in concert halls up and down the nation and across Europe and North America – even a hint that there could be some audience participation in carrying the message. Hang on in for the hidden track that makes up the time – Wichita Lineman

Martyn Joseph – like Richard Thompson whose recent live show armed with an acoustic guitar we raved over – seems to be getting stronger with age. There’s a case, this album the prime example, that he’s producing some of the best music of his career. His live shows, be they in small clubs or in open air fields on huge stages, never fail to inspire or provoke thought. “How long does it take for a man to know himself?” he asks. He answers with an album that might speak to you as it feels it speaks directly to me. Songs that hold themselves with a strong grace and a sense of peace.

Here’s Born Too Late from the album:

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