The History of the Albums – n°281
Today, we are going to delve into one of the most atypical and saddest artist stories there is, that of the legendary folk singer and musician Jackson C. Frank. It is the story of a destiny worthy of a Greek tragedy, but which has turned into a mythical treasure. Jackson C Frank has made history in a considerable way, leaving behind him a unique album and one of the greatest folk masterpieces in history. His trajectory is of course extraordinary, in the sense that it is rare that an artist influences his peers so much, releasing a classic album recorded in only a few hours on a certain day in July 1965. Not having known success during his activity, following the example of Van Gogh or Nick Drake, Jackson C Frank never knew afterwards how to recover from the trials that life had reserved for him, holding him in an infinite turmoil until 1999. To be honest, Jackson C Frank's career is not limited to just one album and one single, but the main thing is mostly in that, as well as in all the covers that many prestigious artists have taken up afterwards. In addition to his story, Jackson C Frank is first of all a Contemporary Folk singer with a warm and melancholic voice, who approaches a sincerely deep introspective writing and poetry, supported by a soft and poignant acoustic playing. His greatest wonder is Blues Run the Game, a depressive ballad that has the gift of making you cry all the tears of your body, which will not prevent you from listening to it over and over again. Although his case is apart because of his unhappy career, Jackson C Frank comes at a time when folk music is seriously starting to take hold of pop music with the Beatles, the Byrds and of course Bob Dylan, just a few months before the duo Simon & Garfunkel explodes with The Sound of the Silence. This is no coincidence, especially when you consider the impact he had, like an icon revered by the folk sphere.
When I draw a parallel with the Greek tragedies, it's not to make a metaphor close to them either. This story is not as morbid as the cult of Antigone or Oedipus, but there is reason to say that life sometimes does not reserve peaceful moments for everyone. What is even more unhealthy is that the story of Jackson C Frank alternates between wonder and unhappiness like a vicious infernal circle. Born in Buffalo in 1943, Jackson C Frank suffered a huge disaster at the age of 11 when his school burst into flames when a furnace exploded, leaving him with physical and mental scars that he will carry around for the rest of his life. In this tragic accident, he also lost one of his first teenage sweethearts. During his convalescence, he began to play music thanks to his teacher who gave him a guitar and taught him how to play. Fan of rock n roll and mainly Elvis Presley, Jackson C Frank will then become interested in Folk and Blues. Thanks to a very good financial compensation (which did not erase the traumas he had endured), he decided to leave for England to make a new start, trying to escape his demons and his nascent depression. However, in spite of his short period of active career, Jackson C Frank never got over it, going from one galley to another, from worries to mental worries, leading him to a serious state, forcing him several times to alternate between psychiatric institutions, leaving Jackson wandering in a madness he could no longer control.
During his first period in England, Jackson C Frank met Paul Simon (of Simon & Garfunkel) and Al Stewart who would produce/help him produce his only eponymous solo album in July 1965, which would be released in November of the same year by Columbia. Of course this meeting will be decisive in the sense that in spite of his talent he could not have made an album (as good as any other) without the help of the American and the Scotsman, who were then on a trip to explore the new British folklore, who accompanied him and advised him very judiciously. Yet despite the record time they took to record the song repertoire, nothing was easy, especially since Jackson C Frank was finally a beginner musician, who knew nothing about the studio and was just starting to record. His shyness was so strong that he had to sing and play hidden from view. The initial album consists of 10 songs, 9 of which are original, symbolizing the perfect singer-songwriter soloist. Obviously the cult Blues Run the Game opens the ball, leaving the listener already sitting quietly on his armchair in full contemplation. This song also directs and structures like the backbone, the whole of what we will find throughout the album, but it doesn't take anything away from the beauty of the other songs. Not being known for writing joyful songs, Jackson C Frank very often tackles the themes of depression, malaise, alcohol addiction with a melancholy pronounced like a lung feeding the spirit of the performer. Many of his stories are drawn from introspection and metaphors, which they always manage to transform into something particularly heartbreaking. Among my favorite songs (apart from the single) is first of all the crystallizing and melodic My Name is Carnival, which paradoxically stands out for its more scintillating musicality. I also have a crush on the bluesy ballads You Never Wanted Me and Don't Look Back. And finally, to conclude, I'm going to talk about the literally depressive pearls that are I Want to Be Alone or Marlene (who is only present in the re-release) who pays tribute to his girlfriend who died in the famous school fire. You will have understood it, after having cried until your eyes are close to dryness, this unique Jackson C Frank album is a marvel that should not be missed, whether you are familiar with folk or not. The memory of the tragic destiny of his interpreter lies in the priceless treasure he left behind. It's not supposed to be just a reminder of the crossed destiny of one of his spiritual children Nick Drake