The lugubrious Jake Thackray's second album was largely recorded in one three-day session at Abbey Road in April 1969. Next door, the Beatles were putting the finishing touches to "Old Brown Shoe" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," titles that -- no matter what their eventual musical form might have been -- would have slipped effortlessly into Thackray's set list.
Backed for the most part by a small but stellar band (pianist Frank Horrox, guitarist Ike Isaacs and bassist Frank Clarke), Jake's Progress was a considerably more even collection than its predecessor. Thackray was still working his way through the material that had accompanied him around the folk clubs for much of the past five years, including several songs that he'd already recorded for EMI during sessions in 1967, albeit with certain modifications. "On the Shelf," for example, had transitioned from first to third person singular, while the stellar "The Blacksmith and the Toffee Maker" (surely one of his greatest ever compositions) packs a sultry sexiness that the earlier demo (since released on the Jake in a Box box set) was lacking. From the uproarious ("Family Tree" and "The Hole"), to the tender ("Worried Brown Eyes," "Sophie"), and on to the irresistibly bizarre ("Caroline Diggleby-Pratte" and "The Castleford Ladies Magic Circle"), Jake's Progress is the perfect sophomore album, a set that effortlessly improves upon its predecessor without losing any of the naïve magic and freshness that characterize the best debuts. In other words, another classic.