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Johnny Marr – Spirit Power: The Best Of Johnny Marr (BMG)

Back in September, Johnny Marr announced a double album that celebrates the first 10 years of his prolific solo career. Spirit Power: The Best of Johnny Marr comes after a busy Summer that saw the legendary guitarist embark on an extensive tour of independent venues and festivals across the UK and Europe. It also follows the release of his second book, Marr’s Guitars, which hit shelves just last month.

Showcasing his versatility as an artist from the off, the album begins with the synth-laced ‘Armatopia‘ – a non-album single release from 2019 that has become a crowd favourite in Johnny’s live set – before he takes things back to the start with ‘New Town Velocity’. Offering an autobiographical peek into Johnny’s youth, ‘New Town Velocity’ boasts alluring vocals and an empathetic chorus that left us wondering why he’d waited so long to go solo. Personally curated by Johnny, Spirit Power encompasses songs from all four of his widely acclaimed UK top ten solo albums and other tracks from his debut album, The Messenger including the title track, the raucous ‘Upstarts’ and ‘European Me’.


Released just 18 months after his debut, 2014’s Playland saw Johnny’s upward trajectory continue and he caught everyone’s attention with its lead single, ‘Easy Money’ – boasting an infectious hook and repetitive chorus, the exuberant track serves up Johnny’s thoughts on consumerism and is a staple part of Johnny’s setlists. Featuring what Johnny once told NME was one of his favourite riffs that he’s written, ‘Dynamo’ is a soaring rock ballad that takes us on a joyous four minute journey of shimmering guitars as he pays tribute to Manchester’s CIS Tower. Completing the trio of Playland tracks is the brooding ‘Candidate’, which sees chiming guitar lines from Johnny pulsating over melancholic keyboard work from James Doviak.


Spirit Power features three tracks from 2018’s Call The Comet – and they’re three of the strongest tracks from the last ten years of Johnny’s career. Often compared to There is a Light That Never Goes Out‘ by The Smiths, ‘Hi Hello‘ is unsurpassable. With jangly guitar and gloomy keyboards, the poignant track features some of Johnny’s most personable lyrics. Though Johnny’s far from a one trick pony and that’s particularly evident in the second track, ‘Walk Into The Sea‘ – a brooding track that features spoken word delivery from the Manchester icon. Responsible for things taking a dark turn on the album and during Johnny’s shows, ‘Walk Into The Sea‘ is a track that draw attention to how talented Johnny’s powerhouse of a band (Jack Mitchell, Iwan Gronow, James Doviak and Scott Docherty) are – three of which have been by his side since 2013.


Released just last year, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 gained a wealth of positive reviews. Four of the expertly crafted tracks are featured on Spirit Power and they perfectly reflect his abilities as both a guitarist and a songwriter, starting with the albums lead single ‘Spirit, Power and Soul’. The anthemic track introduced us to an upbeat and euphoric vibe that prevalent throughout the majority of Johnny’s fourth album, including the remaining tracks that are on Spirit Power – ‘Tenement Time’, the bass heavy ‘Night and Day’ and ‘Sensory Street’.

Two non-single releases that are welcome additions on Spirit Power are ‘The Priest‘ and ‘I Feel You‘. Released in 2017, ‘The Priest‘ saw Johnny collaborate with Maxine Peake. Delivering a hard-hitting commentary on homelessness, the powerful track sees the acclaimed actress read a piece of poetry by former Big Issue salesman Joe Gallagher, alongside a cinematic soundscape provided by Johnny. After teasing fans with a blistering rendition of Depeche Mode’sI Feel You‘ in early 2015, Johnny released for Record Store Day – up until now, it’s only been available as a limited edition 7″ and as part of Johnny’s Single Life boxset.


Spirit Power also includes two brand new songs that had their live debut over the Summer, and knowing this gave it that extra layer of excitement. Alongside the announcement of the hefty compilation came the release of ‘Somewhere’. Boasting an infectiously catchy chorus, the melodic track showcases not just Johnny’s smooth vocals, but also his skills as a lyricist – both of which have gone from strength to strength since the release of his debut album. Fast paced throughout, ‘The Answer’ is a frenzied track has a real fierceness to it and possesses some of Johnny’s most exhilarating guitar work yet.

The new material doesn’t end there and the deluxe CD edition of the album features five previously unheard demos and rarities. It’s rare to have the opportunity to hear early versions of Johnny’s work and the demos of ‘Hi Hello’ and ‘Somewhere’ in particular are nothing short of beautiful. Featuring acoustic guitar, the tracks are stripped to the bone and see Johnny tackle the vocals and harmonies – drawing attention to just how gifted Johnny is as a songwriter and musician.

Johnny has achieved more in the last decade than some artists achieve in their entire careers – and Spirit Power just touches the surface of what he’s capable of. Aside from a plethora of brilliant guitar work, you never know what’s around the corner with Johnny and we can’t wait to see what’s next.


Spirit Power: The Best Of Johnny Marr out now via BMG. You can purchase it here.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.