You'd be hard-pressed to find a better 'Sunday morning' album.
Chris Jones 2009-06-11
Bert Jansch is a man who's seen both sides of the music industry coinage. As a solo artist in the folk clubs of 60s Britain or as a member of jazz folk pioneers Pentangle he's been feted and identified as a key figure in the development of finger-picked guitar, counting people such as Jimmy Page and Johnny Marr among his disciples. Still playing today, his status remains high. But he's also had his period of languishing in semi-obscurity, blighted by personal demons. 1974's L.A. Turnaround finds the folk genius in transcendent form.
By 1973 Jansch was in semi-retirement following the demise of Pentangle. While he had continued to record solo work during their career his efforts had become intermittent and somewhat desultory. Signing to Tony Stratton Smith's Famous Charisma label saw him experience something of a renaissance. Long unavailable (Jansch himself had to wait for Johnny Marr to give him a rare copy of this album) this is the finest work he produced during the decade.
While part of this album was recorded at Stratton Smith's country house (as shown on the accompanying 13-minute promotional film) L.A. Turnaround signalled Jansch's relocation to and adoption of the sounds of America. With ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith (himself a contender for the title of father of country rock) producing and with his right hand man, Red Rhodes on pedal steel, the album is a breezy, laid back treat that more than deserves its legendary status.
Much like fellow British musician Terry Reid (whose Graham Nash-produced Seed Of Memory this resembles in parts), the move towards country-lite rejuvenates a man whose stock in trade was more rooted in these isles. Rhodes' steel floats languidly over proceedings. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better 'Sunday morning' album.
He revives Needle Of Death, a classic from his eponymous 1965 debut album, throwing it in amongst a delightful melange of traditional and self-written numbers that flow easily. Nesmith's production, much as on his own underrated work from the same period, captures Jansch doing what he's best at: weaving a filigree of picked chords around his distinctive burr. There's little embellishment here, save for subtle bass from Beatle-pal Klaus Voorman, drums by Danny Lane and some extremely tasty slide from the late Jesse Ed Davis (on Open Up the Watergate (Let the Sunshine In) and Cluck Old Hen).
So often the epiphet 'lost classic' means that you're in for a disappointment. With L.A. Turnaround it's the exact opposite. It's essential stuff.