Most underrated British guitarist meets the gazes and observes the spaces to fathom the luxury of solo choices and stress his place in the J-TULL space.
Sense of freedom has been reigning over him ever since Martin Barre ceased playing second flute to Ian Anderson, and the farther he walked away from there, the less weight of expectations pressed on the six-strings master. This album must be the ultimate manifestation of his liberty, with licks leading to many a route and vocals delegated to friends; what’s more important, it explores Martin’s previously tentative possibilities in a different kind of progressive terms, opting for sheer pleasure of not living in the past but leaving the load of years behind. Still, in doing so, it stresses the guitarist’s immense, though usually uncredited, creative imprint on the oeuvre of the band he spent a great deal of life in by refining Barre’s unique blend of ideas and techniques.
Not for nothing one of the most boisterous tracks here is titled “(This Is) My Driving Song” – a reference to an old B-side from that group, this piece is also a victorious symphony, a multi-layered paean to the acceptance of change – yet the titular cut’s triumphant harmonies can’t hide the battle scars on the artist’s face. But if the “I take no shortcuts” avowal reflects his fatigue, such an approach allows the veteran to collect a variety of details along the way to make it all sound emotionally rich and flesh out the tender nerve of “For No Man” with faith in the future, a belief which can be only moved, not shattered, once Alan Thomson’s fretless bass has sent shivers down the line. And then there’s “Lone Wolf”: a brilliant exhibit of Martin’s method where rock-centric power chords rub shoulders with filigree folk strum in order to host an infectious tune and propel defiant lyrics towards sugar-coated chorus, while the meander of a solo brings home their message.
It will get conjured again in “Badcore Blues” to, aided and abetted by Becca Langsford’s voice, lay unplugged hoodoo at the doors of eternity, yet the punchy stumble infuses “Out Of Time” with suitable urgency, sharpness and sweetness possessing anxious funk in equal measure to let Dan Crisp’s tremulous voice flutter into the orchestral light of “On My Way” whose mandolin is trying to banish fears from the fold. This opulence could provide a contrast to the majestic minimalism of instrumental “Trinity” that’s tapping into traditional lore, were genres melange not a logical part of Barre’s distinct style; so there’s delight, not surprise in the organ-led “And The Band Played On” marrying rhythm-and-blues to music hall as Martin threads nocturnal lace ‘n’ twang through sultry, seductive even, vibe.
Freedom can have many faces… To the liberated Martin Barre, the luxury of choices gave a chance to deliver the best album of his entire career.