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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bert Jansch's L.A. Turnaround (2009 Re-master)

I own this very disc since 1974 when it was issued on The Mad Hatter label (Charisma) and always beloved and cherished it for music, first, but also for its sonic, true timbres, natural sibilants... and birds singing in beautiful Sussex' countryside!

Yes, the birds played a key role in this disc and its music... on first track "Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning", there is a definite "tuning" to the listener and a different time & space bubble and counting... the tape-hiss (an highly blessed feature to my romantic ears...) begins and suddently an extremely clear, beautiful chirping, at various (sonic) perspectives, appears.

... then, when the soundscape is well defined, music begins, magic as it can be, greatly supported by the cover pictures, where Charisma's patron Tony Stratton-Smith's country house is shown in details - i.e. the garden, the bow-windows, the recording mobile studio caravan... and an open window in a room where Bert, Red Rhodes and Mike Nesmith are... Neumann U-87 mikes and '70s TV-set in the background of the nice recording sessions shots.

Quitting for a moment the songs, well known to any Bert Jansch's lover and scholar. please try to imagine my surprise when, few hours ago, I received a small Amazon's packet containing the 2009 remastering of L.A. Turnaround and, when I put on my wife's system Bang & Olufsen's CD-5500 for some background music while at the computer... I almost fell from the sofa!!!

The birds... the chirping... where did "THEY" put them?!?!?!?

I purchased this disk as I wished to listen to the alternate takes and to an alusive "B" side track, only published on an old mid-seventies 45 rpm and, most of all, have a look at the short "cinema verite'" included in the disk as a bonus: 13 minutes of Bert and friends chatting, having dinner, playing and recording... mr. Stratton-Smith's Rolls-Royce parked on the lawn and "that" animated picture of the VERY same pix I so much loved and looked at for decades, while listening to this album... YES, pals... talking about "Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning" sessions... it all seems so real you're breathing "very same" chilly air Bert and friends breathe! Amazing.

The Neumann's mike booms are adjusted in front of (a monitor-less, without earspeakers) Bert... the session appears very friendly and homely, something which Bert already well knew, from his early recordings with Bill Leader in his apartment, to "Rosemary Lane", recorded at Ticehurst House, another country mansion by great, late Nic Kinsey...

... but back to target: the short documentary shows something unseen in original cover pictures - i.e. the "sense of homely, relaxed atmosphere and feeling" wasn't a by-product of, say, U-87's cardioid pattern, with Bert's voice and Brazilian rosewood Yamaha's acoustic, BUT "something" the producer (or Bert...) wished to pass... to reach the listener; the proof? A Coles 4038 is well visible placed near the (open) window... its weird shape is easily recognizable and - no surprise after learning this - its "figure 8" pattern and quality gave this wonderful trueness to those British... yes, they seem to be sparrows;-)))

... so, as usual... so what?!?!

Nothing: L.A. Turnaround, with its "One for Jo" (where they had to leave some chirping, because birds sounds imbedded in singing and playing...), "Cluck Old Hen", "The Blacksmith" and all the other songs, remains iconic as ever, a nearly perfect disc... I'm only asking myself if "remastering" involves lessening in details and artists and producer wishes altering the masters and whatever the mike recorded and appeared on original disc... sort-of polishing something coherent and poetic, but considered (less than) perfect now...

How wrong they are!

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