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Bert Jansch - L.A. Turnaround CD (album) cover


Bert Jansch


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4.00 | 4 ratings

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4 stars L.A. Turnaround from 1974 was supposed to be the album that turned Bert Jansch's career around after the dissolution of The Pentangle one year earlier. Sadly, it was not, but not due to a lack of trying.

Signed to Charisma by the eccentric Tony Stratton - Smith, Jansch finally felt free to shake off the chains that he perceived had creatively bound him up at his tenure with the Pentangle. Where Pentangle co-founder John Renbourn found strength in group numbers, Jansch found himself increasingly marginalized and frustrated.

Both Stratton - Smith and Jansch had a shared vision of casting Jansch as one of the then popular west coast singer songwriters, and Jansch was armed with an array of beautiful songs and a couple of stellar instrumentals to set off on his new journey. Smith employed ex Monkey Mike Nesmith as producer, which is not as far fetched as it sounds, as Nesmith was an accomplished folk songwriter that had penned the sixties Linda Ronstadt/Stone Ponies hit "Different Drum" and knew his way around L.A. recording studios and session men.

As LA Turnaround was out of print for some 25 years before reappearing on CD in 2009, there has been much mythologizing about the initial recording events in the UK of Jansch, Nesmith, and Nesmith's pal, L. A. session pedal steer guitar great O.J. 'Red" Rhodes, who was the American counterpart to British pedal steel great B.J. Cole.

The first cut on the CD remaster is Jansch's concert staple "Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning", which is beautifully enhanced by Rhodes subtle pedal steel and some deft accompaniment by famous Beatles' friend, and a session great himself, Klaus Voorman on bass. Jancsh's voice is perfect for this relaxed tune and doesn't sound strained, which would carryover through every vocal song on the album.

Immediately following is Jansch's seminal instrumental "Chambertin", which is a solo Jansch acoustic guitar clinic deftly demonstrating his long fascination with intricate rhythmic 'circular' guitar chords interjected with his trademark string snaps, bends and pops, which still has people, who don't know better, asking if its really one guitarist playing or just two.

The bittersweet "One For Jo" follows with Jansch giving advise to a female friend to embrace her dreamer of a husband as its a wonderful quality as far as Jansch is concerned. Sound advice? Perhaps not, but it is beautifully presented solo by Jansch.

"Traveling Man" and "Stone Monkey" continues Jansch's great songwriting blitz with clever words to go along with these cleaver melodies.

An unremarkable cover of one of his debut album's seminal songs "Needle Of Death" lacks the urgency and hurt in Jansch's vocals but his wonderful retelling of John Renbourn's pseudo Elizabethan instrumental "Lady Nothing" is a stunning follow up and restores the mood of the album.

Unfortunately, the restoration was brief as "Comes A Time", "Cluck Old Hen ( a traditional number) and "The Blacksmith" are lesser workman like numbers form Jansch resulting in a poor end to a mostly fine album.

The bonus tracks offer a look at some alternate album takes and the darker jazz piano inflicted version of "The Blacksmith" would have been a better album closer then it's more upbeat original, as it returns Jansch to his better known darker musical and lyrical visions. C'est le vie.

In Britain, L.A. Turnaround should have been received as Bert Jansch's Harvest, but perhaps because the singer songwriter movement was wanning in 1974, coupled with the fact that Charisma was never known for it's marketing abilities, probably stymied the album's initial reception. But L.A. Turnaround is a high water mark in the Bert Jansch canon that he would seldom top in the 70s, except for his unexpected and little known masterpiece released in 1978 title Avocet.

SteveG | 4/5 |


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