Bert Jansch – L.A. Turnaround, Santa Barbara Honeymoon, A Rare Conundrum

January 01, 1970

(Drag
City)

 

www.dragcity.com

 

English folk great Bert Jansch’s trilogy of titles released
on the old Charisma label back in the 1970s during his short sabbatical in Los
Angeles have been known as the rarest works in his catalog by collectors. So
rare, in fact, that Jansch himself had to bid on 1973’s L.A. Turnaround from eBay, while longtime fan Johnny Marr gave Bert
his own treasured vinyl copy of 1977’s A
Rare Conundrum
when the one-time Smiths/Modest Mouse/Electronic guitar
maven heard that his six-string hero was in search of one.

 

Well, just in time to ease the financial woes of hard-hit
wax hounds the world over, Drag
City once again does its
part to assist in the ailing economy by making these hard-to-find treasures
widely available once again after 25 years of record fair obscurity. Released
both on 180 gram virgin vinyl and, for the first time, on CD, all three of
these albums have now been digitally remastered and expanded to include a small
treasure of previously unreleased material from Jansch’s Charisma years.

 

Though all of them are well worth discovering, L.A. Turnaround (9 stars out of 10) is
clearly the gem of this group. Recorded in with Mike Nesmith at the height of
his post-Monkees country rock phase at an English cottage that was later used
in the film A Fish Called Wanda, this gorgeous, off-the-cuff album ranks right
up there with Rosemary Lane
and Jack Orion as one of Jansch’s finest works. It’s a collaboration that beams
with spontaneity and shimmering beauty, marrying the traditional British folk
Jansch has made his bread and butter from with the misty canyon twang of early
70s L.A. to create a wholly unique fusion that’s unlike anything else that’s
been created before or since. 

 

1975’s Santa Barbara Honeymoon (6 stars) was also a highly
unique release for Jansch, but not for the same reasons. It was produced by a
friend of Nesmith’s who sessioned on L.A.
Turnaround
, Danny Royce Lane, who apparently had lofty ambitions to slather
Bert’s subtle nuances with heaping spoonfuls of studio polish and sharp
creative left turns. The results were mixed at best, as female back-up singers,
elements of Dixieland jazz and steel drums were all incorporated in an attempt
to enhance Jansch’s stoic folk sound. On the other side of the coin, Honeymoon also contains some of his most
inspired work of the ‘70s as well, particularly the North Sea oil exploitation
protest ballad “Lost and Gone”, which comes closer to Jansch’s trademark sound
than anything else on the album.

 

1977’s A Rare
Conundrum
(8 stars), on the other hand, is a retreat back down the British
folk rabbit hole while the Charisma suits were busy concentrating on the
breakout success of their marquee artists, post-Peter Gabriel Genesis. Recorded
in the Putney district of South London with the likes of Dire Straits drummer
Pick Withers and longtime Jansch compatriot Rod Clements, most famous for bass
in the English underground folk-rock outfit Lindisfarne,
Conundrum is vintage Bert through and through. It also serves as a tribute to
the guitarist’s youth, as songs like “Poor Mouth” and “One To A Hundred” are
linked directly to specific memories from the guitarist’s childhood, while “Three
Dreamers” recalls his early pub days performing alongside pals Robin Williamson
and Clive Palmer of the Incredible String Band. Unfortunately, this gem of an
album was released the year punk rock exploded and didn’t get the attention it
deserved. But nevertheless, it remains one of Jansch’s finest moments and, like
all three of these Charisma albums, it’s nothing short of a collector’s wonder
they are back on the market at an affordable price once again.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“Needle of
Death” (L.A. Turnaround); “Open Up The Watergate (Alt. version)” (L.A. Turnaround),
“Lost and Gone” (Santa Barbara Honeymoon), “Poor
Mouth” (A Rare Conundrum), “Three Dreamers” (A Rare
Conundrum
) RON HART

 

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