Friday, 3 October 2014

"Jackson C. Frank" by JACKSON C. FRANK - A Review Of His Lone Folk Album In 1965 On Columbia Records - Now Remastered & Expanded in 2001 by Sanctuary of the UK...





"...My Heart’s True Song…"

New Yorker Jackson Casey Frank produced simple acoustic songs of such beauty and intensity that comparisons to Nick Drake and Tim Buckley immediately jump to mind. And yet this American Folk troubadour had a life so tragic (horrific personal injuries in a fire at the age of 13, loss of a son, mental illness and homelessness) - it threatens to overshadow his recorded legacy. But there is at least this stunning little CD reissue from the good folks at Sanctuary that only hammers home what a loss his passing was. Here are the blues that ran the game...

Originally released 19 November 2001 on CD (reissued in March 2008) - Sanctuary CMRCD366 (Barcode 5050159136629) breaks down as follows (56:16 minutes)

1. Blues Run The Game
2. Don't Look Back
3. Kimble
4. Yellow Walls
5. Here Comes The Blues
6. Milk And Honey
7. My Name Is Carnival
8. I Want To Be Alone (Dialogue)
9. Just Like Anything
10. You Never Wanted Me
Tracks 1 to 10 are his only officially released vinyl album "Jackson C. Frank" - released December 1965 in the UK-ONLY on Columbia Records 33SX 1788

11. Marlene
12. Marcy's Song
13. The Visit
14. Prima Donna Of Swans
15. Relations
Tracks 11 to 15 are Bonuses - Previously Unreleased 1970's Demos

This classy Sanctuary CD reissue and remaster comes housed in a card slipcase - the inner 12-page booklet has superbly detailed and informative liner notes by noted musicologist ALAN ROBINSON. It doesn't say who did the remaster - but the sound is beautiful. Just a voice and guitar, Paul Simon's simple and sympathetic production values and CBS facilities all combine to offer up a warm and atmospheric listen. One or two of the DEMOS are hissy in places but they're a fascinating addition - more emotionally naked acoustic songs waiting to be born...

Introduced by a kind lady called Judith Piepe to both PAUL SIMON and ART GARFUNKEL (staying in her London flat at the time) - Simon liked what he heard so much - he offered to produce Frank's debut album (which he famously did). Frank also befriended a nineteen year-old nurse and singer called SANDY DENNY and in turn another unsigned songwriting talent AL STEWART. When it came to recording the album - he was so scared he hid behind a screen in the studio (so Simon and Stewart wouldn't see him) - recording the whole album on acoustic guitar in less than three hours at the CBS Studios in New Bond Street. Columbia even tried a UK 45 released the same month as the album (December 1965) - "Blues Run The Game" b/w "Can't Get Away From Your Love" on Columbia DB 7795. The non-album B-side is unfortunately not on this CD (see the "Blues Run The Game" compilation).

If you want to know just emotive the opening song "Blues Run The Game" is - check out the SIMON & GARFUNKEL version that first appeared as an unreleased track on their 3CD "Old Friends" Box Set in 1997 - it's unbelievable good (also a bonus track on the 2001 reissue of "Sounds Of Silence"). Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Nick Drake, Eddi Reader and others have all done covers of it - and it's probably the standout track on here. Not to be outdone - "Milk And Honey" is just gorgeous too (lyrics from it title this review) as is the aching "I Want To Be Alone (Dialogue)".

A known rarity (originals regularly sell for £300 plus) - the album was reissued in the UK as "Jackson Frank Again" (with a different cover) in April 1978 on B&C Records BCLP 4 - but the music scene at the time ignored it. A UK 7" single combining "Blues Run The Game" b/w "Milk And Honey" preceded the reissue album in March 1978 on B&C Records BCS 0012 - but sank without a trace.


Listening to "Jackson C. Frank" now in 2014 - it's a little like Springsteen's "Nebraska" or Johnny Cash's "American Recordings" - sometimes you just need to hear simple from-the-heart stuff - a man's voice, his spirit and his guitar. After years of mental health problems and even homelessness - Jackson Frank passed away in 1999 without people noticing. At least this beautiful (and cheap) CD reissue celebrates his superlative debut album with real class and style. One for the desert island in us all...

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