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One Of The Greatest Debuts Of All Time,
This review is from: Jackson C Frank (Audio CD)Shamefully,I'd never heard of Jackson C Frank untill I read an amazing article on him in Mojo magazine. The only knowledge I'd aquired of his talents up til then was a mention that John Martyn had (briefly) stayed at his home upon arrival on the London folk scene.
Often when an overlooked album receives almost universal praise, the urge to listen with great scepticism is overwhelming- 'why hasn't this ever been mentioned in one of those Observer/NME/Q lists?'- is the usual response, but Jackson's sole full length effort lives up to any hype, and then some.
Jackson was embraced by the Folk clubs of sixties London after an insurance payout for horrific injuries sustained as a child in a school fire meant he could travel the world and indulge his passion for expensive cars. Championed by the likes of Paul Simon and Al Stewart (who produced, and contributed guitar parts to the album respectively),his debut acted as the torch for a generation of raw, honest singer/songwriters without ever really making any kind of commercial splash. Further personal tragedies and a slide into mental illness meant Frank was never able to capitalize on this effort, and by the late 60's he was virtually a forgotten man.
In an age now where the industry packages alienation, turning blank canvas, stage schooled suburbanites into Conversed troubadours, the sheer raw intensity and energy of this album is hard to express. Songs like 'Blues Run The Game' speak of the kind of inner despair and resignation that all the surgury, rehabilitation and compensation in the world couldn't cure, whilst others like 'Yellow Walls' paint a level of introspection untapped amongst his often 'Hey Nonny Nonny' peers.
The sparse quality of the recording, coupled with Frank's propulsive guitar and haunting, low register delivery brings a subtle, yet anthemic quality to virtually every song, and lyrically there are clever switches in tone: the leaden menace behind the laughing faces in 'My Name Is Carnival' and the powerful defiance of 'Don't Look Back' being outstanding examples.
Frank's life was eclipsed by tragedy at nearly every turn. We should celebrate that he was able to live under that cloud whilst producing a work of such timeless, stark beauty rather than dwell on any 'if onlys'