Bert Jansch – 1974

Sometimes you need a bit o’ change to right a trajectory. By 1974, many of the great English folk-rock artists of past had been either disbanding or watering down. One steady man had always been Bert Jansch. Maybe because of it, he’d always find ways to keep his group, the Pentangle, alive and sorta kickin’ with whatever time transpired. He’d use them as the experimental side of his artistic vision, while leaving the more languid/meditative side for his own solo career. By 1973, in spite of releasing a truly invigorating album, Solomon’s Seal, infighting and over-exhaustion had crept in. Good friends Bert Jansch, Danny Thompson, and John Renbourn had decided to call it quits despite Jacqui McShee’s spirited attempt to keep them together. For once, Bert would have to pick up the pace and inject some new life into his own career.

In a way, following the same path that threatened to derail another like peer Richard Thompson, around 1974 Bert had a career revival of sorts. In 1973, he had released what could be said was the last of his neo-traditional folk albums. Moonshine, joining previous release Rosemary Lane hearkened to English song that hadn’t left the 18th century and bespoke to feelings of melancholia told in wonderful, intricate fashion, but in sonic garments by then well-worn by the greater trends of the time. As gorgeous as that album was, and Tony Visconti’s production made it that much fuller. In 1974, even by Bert’s admission, he needed a new bag to hold.

L.A. Turnaround album cover.

Signed to a new label, and forcing himself to introduce that experimentation he reserved for the Pentangle to his own music, he decided to see if he could combine a certain sound. Its the sound of Americana with his decidedly more English melodies and phrasing. LA Turnaround was the result of this experimentation. Hitting up on the brilliant idea of teaming up with producer Michael Nesmith, himself a supremely talented country-rock artist and ex-Monkees member, Together they introduced the atmospherics of pedal steel guitar, and a more organic country accompaniment to go along with John’s renewed writing. Where mostly traditionals took up his albums before, now baring one track he wrote all his own music.

And what great music it was. Although recorded in Sussex, and finished in Los Angeles, the original recordings at Sussex recall some of the territory Rod Stewart had explored before in Gasoline Alley, a communion of blue collar traditional-feeling love songs and meditations with expertly tweaked Americana. The opening track, the beautiful “Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning” evoked the sound of the British Isles but did it in such a different way. An accompaniment that the Gordon Lightfoot’s of the world would have killed for, gets Anglicized with Bert’s Janschian-like Medieval flair acoustic guitar plucking, and his vocals just spreading forth wit that wonderful nasal delivery that belongs to centuries of Scottish singers.

Simply too many highlights to count. The album has a certain warmth and approachability that allows any listener to get at the bigger hint of the pastoral beauty inherent in both Bert’s English Folk music and America’s Country music. Highlights included “Travelling Man”, “Stone Monkey”, “Of Love and Lullaby”, ah fuck it, all of them are brilliant and simply perfect ways to feel the beauty of a Sunday morning. When you have the freedom to just exist and not be restrained to be someone, or something, you get wonderful carefree creations like this which just exude some of the best of ourselves. Sometimes you don’t have to play English music in a “English” way to more than conjure it, that’s something another artist will show tomorrow as we continue forward into 1974 with English neo-folk music…

Listen to L.A. Turnaround at Spotify.

Bonus track, one more track from LA Turnaround the open-eire “One For Jo”, also found in the same video documentary of its creation…