And one of our favorite labels does the deed…
Ba Da Bing Records is prepping the release of Jackson C. Frank: The Complete Recordings. Three years in the making, this collection presents, for the first time, the entire discography of a folk singer regarded by many as one of the best and most important songwriters of the 1960s. The collection also includes 24 songs appearing for the first time, converted from recently discovered recordings.
It’s set for August 4. Everything has been remastered, and in conjunction with these records, Ba Da Bing is publishing Jackson C. Frank: The Clear, Hard Light of Genius by Jim Abbott, the man who befriended and looked after Frank in the singer’s final years.
The backstory: A life plagued by tragedy with the most haunting music to show for it, Frank’s story can be heard through his music, which has been covered by the likes of Nick Drake (who was greatly influenced by Frank, as indicated by his many cover songs), Simon & Garfunkel, Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Marianne Faithfull, John Hawkes in the film Martha Marcie May Marlene, Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, Laura Marling, First Aid Kit, Counting Crows, John Mayer, South Korean jazz singer Nah Youn Sun, French singer Graeme Allwright, and Mark Lanegan fronting Soulsavers. Frank’s music also has been sampled by Nas for “Undying Love” and used by Vincent Gallo in The Brown Bunny (it was even done by this kid on YouTube.) While never gaining the recognition he deserved, Jackson C. Frank clearly had his fans.
Frank’s story is a cautionary tale for the dangerous pitfalls of a life lived. At the age of eleven, he was the victim of the infamous Cleveland Hill School Fire in a New York suburb, leaving him burned and disabled; the fire killed 15 of his classmates. It was during an agonizing eight months in the hospital that he picked up a guitar for the first time. Scarred both physically and psychologically, Frank would never fully recover from the wounds. His never-released second album was to include the song “Marlene”, which honors his childhood girlfriend lost in the fire.
In 1965, after an aborted attempt at college, Frank—accompanied by a Martin Guitar and his then-girlfriend Kathy Henry—traveled to England by boat, on which he apocryphally wrote what would be his first and most famous song, “Blues Run The Game.”
Frank soon found himself making the rounds of the London folk clubs and rubbing shoulders with Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, John Renbourn, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton, Mike Seeger and Sandy Denny, who became Jackson’s girlfriend. (Later, she wrote the somber song “Next Time Around” about him.)
Frank’s music caught the interest of another young American songwriter in London: Paul Simon, who in ’65 produced Frank’s debut album, Jackson C. Frank. Simon brought Al Stewart along to play guitar, while Sandy Denny, Judith Piepe and Art Garfunkel kept them company (and supposedly even fetched Frank tea).
After recording his album, however, Frank’s health took a turn for the worse. The ensuing years were unkind. He met his future wife Elaine Sedgwick (cousin of Edie), at a London party, and when his money began to run out he left London for Woodstock, where they married. The relationship was marked by a miscarriage and the death of their first-born son to cystic fibrosis, and Jackson’s subsequent mental unraveling. Frank was later diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and battled excessive weight gain from a thyroid problem developed after the fire. Additionally, he went through bouts of intermittent homelessness between stays at various upstate shelters. One day, while he waited in a park to be moved to a new facility, he was shot and blinded in his left eye by neighborhood children with a BB gun. The light from this period of his life came from Jim Abbott, who looked after the singer until Frank’s death in 1999.
Frank’s recordings span four decades and his key album has enjoyed numerous (official and unofficial) reissues, and an expanded double CD edition, whic appeared in 2003 from Sanctuary, with 33 previously unreleased songs. Jackson C Frank: The Complete Recordings contains a total of 67 tracks, including all the Sanctuary material, plus 24 more songs.
The 6xLP version comes in three separate volumes, two-LPs each (LP 6 is one-sided) sold separately, and housed in a Stoughton gatefold old-style jacket. The 3xCD version comes in a six panel cardboard wallet.
The Special Edition Box Set is housed in a handmade ash wood box, finished with walnut oil, engraved and branded and will be limited to 150 copies. Get ready, collectors.