It?s not arrogant to tout your genius if fans and critics alike have pinned that label on you, so the title of Jones? sophomore effort (originally released on Village Thing in 1970) is not cause for alarm, merely a statement of fact. (Another legend, BBC DJ John Peel tabbed it as one of the year?s best releases, praising its ?really good songs and simple, clean performances.?) Jones confesses in the liner notes that he was hesitant about using the title, which ?has haunted me ever since!? (?If people didn?t listen to the words, I thought it might be misconstrued?), but label head Ian Anderson (the current editor of Froots magazine, not the Jethro Tull frontman) insisted he go with it. While eight of the nine originals were penned by Jones?s former musical partner Alan Tunbridge (the duo met in the late 50?s and remained close friends throughout the 60?s), it?s Jones? arrangements that are on display throughout. Nevertheless, Jones today insists that ?I always thought [Alan] played his songs the best. I was never able fully to capture the subtleties and intricate time changes of his tunes, but I hope I projected them to a wider audience by championing them throughout the 1960s folk boom.?
Listen to his open tuning arrangement of the traditional tale ?Willie Moore? that he learned off of one of Harry Smith?s Folkways anthologies, where he adapted the original?s banjo and fiddle for his guitar to get a sense of his skills at breathing life into musty old tunes. On the controversial title track, Jones (vicariously speaking for Tunbridge) tongue-in-cheekily reflects a similar sentiment that Nick Drake posed in ?Fruit Tree? on his ?Five Leaves Left? debut released the same year. Marvel at Jones? dexterity as his fingers stroll up and down the guitar neck during the song?s solo and you will agree with Anderson?s insistance on using the song for the album?s title.
Ralph McTell?s electric guitar adds an uplifting folk-rock vibe to ?When I Cease To Care,? whose rolling melody is not too far removed from McTell?s classic, ?Streets of London? written the year before. (And to bring Jones? far-reaching influence up-to-date, compare this with Pat Orchard?s ?Shabby Road? to hear how today?s folk artists are incorporating Jones? dexterity and open tunings and rolling guitar lines into their own work.) Elsewhere, you can almost see the spittle dripping from Jones? beard as he punctuates ?Alan?s usual cynical humour? on ?Nobody Told You So.? ?Beggarman? is another amazing duet, this time with Pete Berryman, who would eventually work with another of Jones? collaborators, Clive Palmer in his Famous Jug Band.
Open-minded Hot Tuna fans will enjoy comparing Jones? arrangement of the old spiritual ?Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning? that he learned from Rev. Gary Davis? ?Gospel, Blues & Street Songs? album (Riverside, 1961) with Jorma?s showcase. Jones? version is a bit livelier than Jorma?s, thanks to what he calls ?the old Big Bill Broonzy thump-thump well to the fore.? Tunbridge?s ?Dazzling Stranger? is perhaps my favorite track on the album. Jones originally recorded this on his self-titled debut on United Artists the year before, but McTell?s harmonium ?imbues the track with a certain ecclesiastical atmosphere? that adds a nice variety to the album that prevents it from descending into another stodgy folk album that everyone praises, but no one seems to play more than once.
While Jones criticizes his lone composition ?If Only I?d Known? as ?one of my early, typically gloomy efforts at songwriting,? it adds a na?ve pleasure to the album, set alongside Tunbridge?s more polished efforts. Reanna James brings another dimension to the album with her marvelous piano accompaniment to ?Slow Down To My Speed,? and the original album concludes on an upbeat note with a live rendition of ?Stick A Little Label On It,? recorded at the Bristol Troubador. Three additional live bonus tracks from his 1971 German tour (including a cautiously restrained version of another legend, Leonard Cohen?s ?Sisters of Mercy,? to the fancy fretwork of his rollicking, ragtimey take on ?Glory of Love,? through to his tearful, pindrop rendition of his acknowledged student, Bert Jansch?s ?Neecdle of Death?) make this already essential release all the more inviting, and demonstrate that Jones was able to successfully recreate his studio arrangements on stage. 9/10 -- Jeff Penczak (10 July, 2006)