Jackson C. Frank - Jackson C. Frank

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Jackson C. Frank - Jackson C. Frank

1 CD(s) - Folk - Label: Sanctuary - Distributor: Universal Music, PIAS UK/Arvato Services - Released: 01/08/2013 - 5050159136629

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Review of "Jackson C. Frank - Jackson C. Frank"

published 22/10/2017 | 2mennycds
Member since : 28/08/2015
Reviews : 287
Members who trust : 72
About me :
Best wishes to all, and thanks for your kind rates and comments, have been half-expecting the latest announcement for at least the last year. Have thoroughly enjoyed being a member over the last couple of years or so.
Pro Poignant, moving songs, clear voice and crisp guitar
Cons Some less melodic songs, stripped down arrangement won't appeal to all
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
Value for Money

"Little known but produced by, and song covered by, Paul Simon"

Jackson C. Frank (1)

Jackson C. Frank (1)



Sadly, music reviews aren’t only exempt from Diamond awards and Premium Fund – like books – but don’t earn a single penny either for the writing or for any rating received.

I think Ciao is the poorer for the absence of music reviews, and despite earning no money for writing them, I still want to recommend some worthwhile listening.


Jackson C Frank’s story is enough to make a grown man weep. It also explains the power of his songs, and it’s a pity that he is so little known.

Born in 1943, he was both severely traumatised and badly burned in a school fire at the age of 11. Fifteen classmates, died, including his then childhood girlfriend. His teacher brought a guitar to his hospital bed to help him occupy himself. Elvis was his guitar hero and he had the good fortune, on a visit to Graceland at the age of 13, to have his photo taken next to his hero!

An insurance cheque funded a trip to England, where he soon became a part of the booming ‘60s folk scene. He liked flashy cars but largely avoided drink and drug excesses, and was generous towards musical colleagues who struggled financially.

His songs are sad, but not dripping with self-pity. He played a Martin (acoustic) guitar, which was unusual in such a setting, such prize American instruments being too pricey for most of his contemporaries. His short hair and closely-shaved face also stood out!

Folk legend John Renbourn said he was “knocked out whenever he heard (Frank) play”. It wasn’t long, though, before Frank’s mental state again became unstable. He returned to America and was briefly married to a former model. His son died of cystic fibrosis, the marriage broke down, and Frank was hospitalised with acute depression.

Renbourn visited him and was shocked at his friend’s appearance and state of mind. He had been living rough before hospitalisation, and had even been blinded in one eye by some youngsters taking pot shots with an air rifle. Thyroid trouble had also led to a big weight increase.

A fan later helped him to find accommodation, and encouraged him to perform and record sporadically again. He died of pneumonia and cardiac arrest, aged 55, in 1999.

It’s possible that he found a measure of satisfaction in his later years as his talents became more recognised.

The album

I bought this on the strength of hearing a live “Blues Run The Game” by blues guitarist Rory Block. This album comes in a jewel case, and consists of 15 songs, with a playing time of minutes.

The first 10 songs formed his original recording on vinyl; there are a further 5 bonus tracks. One, “Marlene”, is about his childhood girlfriend who died in the fire (“The ghost of her floats over there... We were so young…”)

The 12-page booklet outlines his life and career. Its front and back are reproduced from the original vinyl.

The songs

~ ~ ~ ~ Blues Run The Game ~ ~ ~ ~
The album begins with his most successful song (covered by the likes of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Sandy Denny, and Paul Simon, who produced the album).

I find the melody haunting, fitting the lyrics like a glove, and I think the crisp, finger-picked guitar is a lovely accompaniment. The tempo is slow, but not overly so.

“Catch a boat to England baby, maybe to Spain
Wherever I have gone
Wherever I’ve been and gone,
Wherever I have gone,
The blues are all the same.

When I’m not drinking, baby, you are on my mind,
When I’m not sleeping, honey,
When I’m not sleeping, momma,
When I’m not sleeping you know you’ll find me crying

Living is a gamble, baby, loving’s much just the same
Wherever I have played,
Wherever I’ve thrown them dice,
Wherever I have played,
the blues have run the game.”

It ends with a repeat of the first verse, preceded by the hope that when he’s older, things will be better.

I’d have to say that, to me, this is far and away the best track on the album, and worth the purchase of the album.

~ ~ ~ ~ Don’t Look Back ~ ~ ~ ~

This protest song (about racism and violence), was apparently by a shooting in Alabama. Frank’s voice is clear, strong, and impassioned against the strummed accompaniment.

~ ~ ~ ~ Kimbie ~ ~ ~ ~

This is a traditional love song from the perspective of a prisoner who may even be there because of his lover. After the anger of “Don’t Look Back”, this is a gentle, sorrowful song to a nimble, understated guitar accompaniment. I like Frank’s clear voice again, with some well delivered glissando (sliding) notes.

~ ~ ~ ~ Yellow Walls ~ ~ ~ ~

Sung to a guitar that is part strummed, part picked with runs and licks of single notes, this is a thought-provoking song. Frank reflects in the original notes, “How many of us are running without moving, hiding behind walls grown from the dim recesses of birth?”

~ ~ ~ ~ Here Come The Blues ~ ~ ~ ~

A slow but melodic bluesy song, I love the feel of this, and the adept playing: “Here comes lonely, here comes the blues…”

~ ~ ~ ~ I Want To Be Alone ~ ~ ~ ~

The notes describe this as “probably closest to the writer’s heart, for it speaks of a dire necessity too often misunderstood for comfort.” It’s another moving song, but less melodic than some of the others.

~ ~ ~ ~ Just Like Anything ~ ~ ~ ~

Despite its simple tune and apparently simplistic lyrics, Frank states in the notes on the rear cover that this isn’t a children’s song. It alludes to some important issues, including death.

Concluding comments

4 stars from me. An album that needs to be listened to carefully rather than played as background, and the simple arrangement (apart from one track where Al Stewart plays additional guitar it is one man and one acoustic guitar) won’t appeal to all.

It’s beyond doubt that the original 10 songs are superior to his other work, but the bonus tracks have a reasonable amount to offer.

I confess to finding some of the songs spellbinding; others I’m less keen on, but this is partly down to personal preference, and even those that I like less are thought-provoking and moving nonetheless.


~ ~ Frank’s voice. It’s clear and strong, surprising perhaps given that he was so nervous when recording that he stood behind a screen and had to psyche himself up for each song.

~ ~ the melodies, which are tuneful and often memorable

~ ~ the lyrics. At times evocative, at others a little mystical or mysterious, they are well penned and very poignant

~ ~ I really feel that the better songs in particular are greater than the sum of their parts, and that Frank weaves a spell with them


~ ~ I find the songs of variable quality, and some don’t do much for me

~ ~ on the other hand, as stated above, all are thought-provoking and worth listening to

Amazon sell this (2008 Re-mastered) for £5.89 (CD), MP3 £7.99. Other editions are available, including an “Expanded Deluxe version” for £10.07; Zavvi sell the 2008 edition for £6.49. personally, I think that the 2008 re-master is the one to go for as it seems a more fitting tribute to original vinyl recording.

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Comments on this review

  • Secre published 29/11/2017
    Nicely done
  • RICHADA published 02/11/2017
    I refuse to believe that such an excellent review is worthless to Ciao and I too lament their policy on this. Not sure I got the Steps reference, maybe they have fixed that blunder? R.
  • euphie published 27/10/2017
    e :o)
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Product Information : Jackson C. Frank - Jackson C. Frank

Manufacturer's product description

1 CD(s) - Folk - Label: Sanctuary - Distributor: Universal Music, PIAS UK/Arvato Services - Released: 01/08/2013 - 5050159136629

Product Details

EAN: 5050159136629


Listed on Ciao since: 18/03/2005