BERT JANSCH-SANTA BARBARA HONEYMOON 

Bert Jansch-Santa Barbara Honeymoon.

Label: Earth UK.

Buoyed by the commercial success and critical acclaim that his previous album L.A. Turnaround, which was released in September 1974, Bert Jansch began work on the followup Santa Barbara Honeymoon Stylistically both albums featured the same type of music, but  unlike L.A. Turnaround, Santa Barbara Honeymoon wasn’t produced by former Monkey Michael Nesmith and didn’t feature pedal steel player Red Rhodes, who had played such an important part in the sound and success of the album.

Instead, Danny Lane took charge of production on Santa Barbara Honeymoon, and deployed the latest technology, technique and innovations. This meant that Santa Barbara Honeymoon,  which was recently reissued by Earth UK. Santa Barbara Honeymoon was released on October 1975, and became Bert Jansch’s tenth album since releasing his debut in 1965.

By then, folk singer Bert Jansch was signed to the Transatlantic label, and had released his eponymous debut album to critical acclaim on the ‘16th’ of April 1965. Eight months later, he released the followup  It Don’t Bother Me to plaudits and praise. It looked as  if the twenty-two year singer was about to enjoy a successful solo career.

With things looking good for Bert Jansch, he returned to the studio in early summer 1966, and was once again, joined by his friend John Renbourn as he recorded Jack Orion. When this third album of traditional folk was released in September 1966, the reviews were mixed. While some critics were won over by the album, and continued to fly the flag for the folk singer, others felt it was a weaker album than its predecessors. Despite that, Bert Jansch’s star was still in the ascendancy.

As 1967, dawned little did Bert Jansch realise that this would one of the most important year of his career. He entered the studio to record his fourth album  Nicola in April 1967, which was Bert Jansch’s first folk rock album. When it was released in July 1967, many reviews were positive, but some weren’t sure about the new direction Bert Jansch’s music was heading. Bert Jansch had realised that his music had to evolve to stay relevant, and increase his fan-base. However, this wasn’t the only change made during 1967.

In 1967, Bert Jansch was one of the cofounders of Pentangle, which joined included his friend John Renbourn, Danny Thompson, Danny Cox and Jacqui McShee. They would combine disparate musical genres including blues, folk, folk rock and jazz over the next few years.

Having joined Pentangle, Bert Jansch’s solo career was put on hold as the new band began honing their sound and playing live. Then in 1968, Pentangle released their critically acclaimed debut album The Pentangle on the ’17th’ May 1968. It was followed by another album of folk rock Sweet Child, which was released on the ‘1st’ of November 1968 to plaudits and praise. After this, Bert Jansch’s thoughts turned to completing his sixth solo album.

Bert Jansch had started recording his sixth album in October 1968, and completed the album in November, just after Pentangle released Sweet Child. Two months later, Birthday Blues, which was produced by Shel Talmy,  was released in January 1969 and was hailed as one of Bert Jansch’s finest albums. However, it would two years before Bert Jansch returned with the followup to Birthday Blues.

Buoyed by the response to Birthday Blues, Bert Jansch joined the rest of Pentangle and recorded the album Basket Of Light with producer Shel Talmy. When it was released on the ‘28th’ October 1969, it was to critical acclaim as the album reached number forty-three in Britain. Nowadays, Basket Of Light which finds Pentangle fusing folk jazz and fusion is now regarded as a minor classic, and one the Pentangle’s finest hours.

Meanwhile, Bert Jansch was working on his seventh album Rosemary Lane,  between June 1970 and January 1971. Despite working on the album on and off for the best part of seventh months, Rosemary Lane, which was produced by Bill Leader received mixed reviews. This was a blow for Bert Jansch who had invested so much of his time into recording Rosemary Lane.

Two months later, and Bert Jansch was back in the studio, and spent three weeks during March 1971, recording Reflection, which was a genre-melting album. Reflection found Pentangle combining Celtic music, country, folk, folk rock, gospel and even funk on what was an ambitious and eclectic album, but one that didn’t find favour with all the critics. Some were unsure of Reflection, and their reviews were far from positive. It was the case of deja vu for Bert Jansch after the response to Rosemary Lane.

Despite the reviews of Rosemary Lane, Pentangle eventually returned to the studio and began work on their sixth album Solomon’s Seal. By then, Pentangle’s contract with Transatlantic had expired amidst arguments and wrangling over royalties. This resulted in Pentangle signing to Warner-Reprise, who had distributed their albums in America. Pentangle released Rosemary Lane on Reprise in September 1972, but the reviews were poor.and so were the sales. Things weren’t looking good for Pentangle.

They got even worse when Bert Jansch announced his intention to leave Pentangle on On New Year’s Day, 1973. Melody Maker ran the story Pentangle to split in the first edition of 1973. It was the end of an era, that had ended with a disappointing swan-song that sold badly.

By then, the members of Pentangle had all spent the advances that they had received from Reprise, and owed the company significant sums of money. It would take the band until the early eighties before the advance was paid off. That was still to come, and in 1973, Bert Jansch was looking for a new record label.

He was no longer signed to Transatlantic, and had signed to Pentangle’s old label Reprise. Bert Jansch’s debut for his new label was Moonshine, which was released on Reprise in February 1973. It was produced by Danny Thompson, and saw Bert Jansch combine baroque folk and folk rock which found favour with the critics. However, after just one album,  Bert Jansch left Reprise and signed for Charisma.

By then, Bert Jansch had written Chambertin which was one of two songs he recorded with Danny Thompson in early 1973 The other was John Renbourn’s Lady Nothing, which later, became part of Bert Jansch’s nine album  L.A. Turnaround.

Having signed to Charisma, Bert Jansch began writing the rest of  L.A. Turnaround , which has recorded at between April ad June 1974, at Sound City, Sepulveda, California. Bert Jansch was joined by an all-star band 

that included pedal steel player Red Rhodes who played an important part of L.A. Turnaround’s sound and success. So did former Monkee, Michael Nesmith took charge of production, 

Critics on hearing Bert Jansch’s ninth album, realised that stylistically,  L.A. Turnaround  was very different to his previous albums. There were elements of country rock and traditional English folk rock on  L.A. Turnaround which become of Bert Jansch’s most successful albums.

Santa Barbara Honeymoon.

Following the success of Santa Barbara Honeymoon, Bert Jansch decided to record a similar album to L.A. Turnaround and began writing what was his tenth album

Eventually, Bert Jansch had writhed ten of the  twelve tracks on Santa Barbara Honeymoon. They were joined by covers of Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell You Are My Sunshine and Jackson C. Frank’s Blues Run The Game. These tracks and the rest of Santa Barbara Honeymoon were recorded at Sound City, Van Nuys, California.

When the sessions began in April 1975,  two men were missing, L.A. Turnaround producer Michael Nesmith and didn’t feature pedal steel player Red Rhodes. Replacing Michael Nesmith as producer was drummer Danny Lane who played on L.A. Turnaround and had very different ideas on production. This didn’t include a pedal steel.

Joining drummer Danny Lane in the rhythm section was fellow sticks-man Tris Imboden, bassists Don Whaley, Ernie McDaniel and David Hungate and guitarist Jim Lacy. They were joined by acoustic guitarist Jim Baker, keyboardists David Barry and Bill Smith and George Seymour on synths. Danny Lane was keen to use synths on Santa Barbara Honeymoon and steel drums played by Robert Greenidge. The final piece of the jigsaw was a brass section and backing vocals from Beth Fitchet Wood, Ron McGuire and Steve Wood. Over two months, twelve tracks were recorded and Santa Barbara Honeymoon was completed by June 1975.

Before the release of Santa Barbara Honeymoon critics had their say on the album, The loss of producer Michael Nesmith was a huge blow, and meant that the  laid back, airy sound of L.A. Turnaround was gone. Pedal steel player Red Rhode’s was another loss, as producer Danny Lane deployed synths,  steel drums,  a Dixieland style jazz band and a myriad of effects. Sadly, they weren’t always used properly and the production on the album is poor. That was a great shame given it was a good collection  of songs. 

Santa Barbara Honeymoon opens with Love Anew. Danny Lane uses a phase shifter on the electric guitar before  Bert Jansch’s guitar and vocal enter. He sings some of the best lyrics on the album but the pitch is off during the album. This takes the edge of what’s one of the better songs on the album.

Mary and Joseph is essentially a traditional English drinking song given a futuristic makeover. For some reason, synths were chosen to accompany the Wurlitzer piano during the verses. It’s a poor choice of instruments. Later,when the entire band enters, the arrangement becomes crowded and shambolic . 

Things improve on the hopeful Be My Friend and the hook-laden Baby Blue, while Baby Blue features an impassioned vocal. Another highlight is the strolling Dance Lady Dance features a  Dixieland jazz band which features one of Bert Jansch’s best vocals. You Are My Sunshine is reinvented and head in the direction of traditional English folk. Lost and Gone features a soul-baring vocal from Bert Jansch. He then revisits Blues Run The Game which featured on debut album in 1965, but it’ drenched in reverb which spoils he song,

Build Another Band is another track when the choice of instrumentation is questionable to say the least. The addiction of steel drums detracts from what could’ve been one of Santa Barbara Honeymoon’s highlights. When The Teardrop Falls is quite beautiful and wistful song, which gives way to Dynamite and Buckrabbit, which are good, but not great songs. With a different producer, Santa Barbara Honeymoon could’ve been a fitting followup to  L.A. Turnaround.

Santa Barbara Honeymoon was a case of what might have been. When Santa Barbara Honeymoon was released in October 1975. it failed to replicate the commercial success and crucial of L.A. Turnaround.

Things might have been very different if Michael Nesmith produced he Santa Barbara Honeymoon, as he could’ve continued with the sound of L.A. Turnaround. Instead, Danny Lane took charge of production but he doesn’t bring out the best in what’s a strong selection of songs. Sadly, that potential isn’t realised given the poor production on some songs, strange choice of instruments and failure to use effects properly. For Bert Jansch it was a case of what might have been as Santa Barbara Honeymoon failed to build on L.A. Turnaround.

Bert Jansch-Santa Barbara Honeymoon.

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