Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bert Jansch- S/T (1965) / It Don't Bother Me (1965) / Jack Orion (1966) MP3 & FLAC -Rest in Peace-

"No girl I've loved has ever held me down. No reason can I give for leaving this town. My love is true now, my love is true, but the road is long; I've got to see my journey through."

One of the most important figures to emerge from the British Folk movement of the sixties and early seventies, Bert Jansch was unparalleled in his combination of technical virtuosity, eclectic influences and brilliant compositional skills. As former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr has suggested, Jansch's considerable influence extends well beyond the folk music genre that he so profoundly transformed: "He completely reinvented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequaled today. Without Bert Jansch, rock music as it developed in the '60s and '70s would have been very different. You hear him in Nick Drake, Pete Townsend, Donovan, The Beatles, Jimmy Page, and Neil Young." As a teenager in mid-fifties Edinburgh, Jansch quickly developed his love and knowledge of Folk music by hanging around a local club called The Howff (Gaelic for "meeting place") that featured local Folk musicians, and it was here that he made a fateful connection. Jansch: "A school friend had said there was a pub up the high street in Edinburgh and that I should check it out because he knows I was interested in the guitar. We both went up there and we took lessons from a girl called Jill Doyle. Fortunately for me she was the sister of Davey Graham, who is my all-time hero when it comes to the guitar. So, I mean from that point on, I sort of bypassed The Beatles and all that." Eventually, after having decided that music was his true calling, Jansch quit his day job as a nurseryman and entered a two-year period where slept on the couches of various friends and acquaintances by day and played an endless string of one night stands on the British folk club scene by night. This experience served as his musical apprenticeship, as he met and learned from many seminal British folk musicians along the way, such as Shirley Collins, Martin Carthy and Anne Briggs.

Davey Graham
No one influenced Jansch's quickly evolving technical prowess on guitar as much as Davey graham, a prodigiously talented musician whose virtuosity on the acoustic guitar was only matched by his infamously mercurial nature; for example, there is an often-told anecdote about how, sometime during the late sixties, Graham was on a flight to Australia where he was booked for a tour; evidently, the flight had a one hour layover in Bombay, during which Graham spontaneously decided to abandon the tour in order to go on a six month walkabout through India. Graham's unquenchable thirst for exploring different cultures and absorbing elements of their folk traditions into his guitar playing rubbed off on the young Jansch; from 1963-1965, in emulation of his idol, Jansch traveled abroad in order to live the life of a busker, hitchhiking from town to town and country to country, finally ending up in Tangiers, where he was repatriated back to England after coming down with dysentery.  However, after returning to London where there was a burgeoning Folk music scene, Jansch's fortunes took a turn for the better, as he soon met Bill Leader, an engineer and producer who helped Jansch make the home reel-to-reel recordings that would comprise his first album. In addition, London provided Jansch with a community of innovative Folk guitarists, such as his idol Davey Graham and John Renbourn, who welcomed him into their ranks.

Bert Jansch in the mid-sixties
Recorded in Jansch's apartment using a single microphone and several borrowed guitars (amazingly, he didn't even own an instrument at this point), Bert Jansch, released in 1965 on a small Folk label called Transatlantic, instantaneously catapulted its creator into the forefront of the London Folk scene, a rarity among Folk albums in the sense that it was comprised mostly of original material, which inevitably saddled Jansch with the troublesome "next Bob Dylan" moniker until, a short time later, the title was handed over to Donovan, who, ironically covered a number of Jansch's songs. Despite such reductive labels, the album was nothing less than a game-changer due to Jansch's deft and dynamic finger-style technique and his already-advanced song-writing ability; its influence was felt far and wide, as Neil Young recalls, "as for acoustic guitar, Bert Jansch is on the same level as Jimi. That first record of his is epic. It came from England, and I was especially taken with 'The Needle of Death,' such a beautiful and angry song. That guy was so good [...] and years later, on On the Beach, I wrote the melody of "Ambulance Blues" by styling the guitar part completely on 'The Needle of Death.' I wasn't even aware of it."

Despite recording mostly original material, Jansch was able to issue a quick follow-up to his successful debut, a testament to his prodigious talent and the result of a considerable backlog of songs from his days of busking and one-nighters. His first turn in a professional recording studio (Pye Studios to be exact) produced  It Don't Bother Me, which, while not as consistently brilliant or as dark as his debut, featured Jansch broadening his approach a bit by occasionally utilizing banjo instead of acoustic guitar and by bringing in additional musicians such as John Renbourn and Roy Harper. In addition to introducing Jansch as a major talent on acoustic guitar, these early albums also evidenced something else that set him apart from many of his Folk-guitar peers: his singing voice. Although he was by no means a gifted vocalist, unlike some of the other major figures on the London Folk scene, such as Davey Graham, John Renbourn, and Wizz Jones, Jansch's mournfully fractured croon was instantly recognizable and highly emotive. He would take his impressive skills to a new level on his next album, Jack Orion, whose all-covers approach bore the imprint of Anne Briggs who had been teaching Jansch traditional Folk songs to re-interpret through his unique Jazz-Blues aesthetic. The result, while not generally considered as essential as Jansch's first two albums, is a peerless example of late-sixties progressive British Folk, whose epic title track ranks with Jansch's best moments on tape. Another standout is "Blackwaterside," whose distinctive rolling, stop-start melody was pinched, virtually note for note, by Jimmy Page for inclusion on Led Zeppelin's debut as "Black Mountainside." While Transatlantic Records wanted to pursue legal action against Page, Jansch's response to the situation was entirely what one would expect from such a modest master: "I was just a singer and a guitar player. It was the record company who was suing for breach of copyright. It's got nothing to do with me." Rest in peace Bert. You will certainly be missed.

Bert Jansch  
(Castle ~ 2001/1965 ~ Remastered & Expanded)

 1. Strolling Down the Highway  (3:06)
 2. Smokey River  (2:56)
 3. Oh, How Your Love Is Strong  (3:40)
 4. I Have No Time  (3:09)
 5. Finches  (0:51)
 6. Rambling's Going to Be the Death of Me  (3:18)
 7. Veronica  (1:32)
 8. Needle of Death  (3:20)
 9. Do You Hear Me Now  (2:06)
10. Alice's Wonderland  (1:46)
11. Running from Home  (2:24)
12. Courting Blues  (4:02)
13. Casbah  (2:10)
14. Dreams of Love  (1:44)
15. Angie  (3:15)
-Bonus Tracks-
16. Instrumental Medley 1964  (8:44)
17. Angie (Live, 1964)  (2:50)

It Don't Bother Me   
(Castle ~ 2001/1965 ~ Remastered)

 1. Oh My Babe  (4:00)
 2. Ring-a-Ding Bird  (4:42)
 3. Tinker's Blues  (1:10)
 4. Anti-Apartheid  (4:05)
 5. The Wheel  (1:50)
 6. A Man I'd Rather Be  (2:05)
 7. My Lover  (4:02)
 8. It Don't Bother Me  (4:28)
 9. Harvest Your Thoughts of Love  (2:15)
10. Lucky Thirteen  (3:32)
11. As the Day Grows Longer Now  (3:44)
12. So Long (Been on the Road so Long)  (3:14)
13. Want My Daddy Now  (1:38)
14. 900 Miles  (3:02)

Jack Orion 
(Castle ~ 2001/1966 ~ Remastered)

1. The Waggoner's Lad  (3:25)
2. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face  (1:41)
3. Jack Orion  (9:46)
4. The Gardener  (1:42)
5. Nottamun Town  (4:33)
6. Henry Martin  (3:11)
7. Blackwaterside  (3:44)
8. Pretty Polly  (4:00)


  1. Yes, truly a sad day. Bert was a legend. The musical world won't quite be the same. Luckily, I finally had the opportunity to see Bert as the opening act for Neil Young and his "Le Noise" tour. Time to break open all of my Pentangle CDs and listen to the magic. Kurt

  2. Bert was a great influence on Neil ( from the website bertjansch.com) “As much of a great guitar player as Jimi [Hendrix] was, Bert Jansch is the same thing for acoustic guitar…and my favourite” - Neil Young . Wish I would have heard Bert play live--(when I saw Neil Young the opener was Sonic Youth back in 1991)

  3. Thank you! Brilliant is all I can say.

  4. Kurt, wow, Neil and Bert in the same show! I saw Bert in the early 2000s and in the early nineties. Peerless player and a wonderful man who had more than his share of struggles along the way

  5. zippy, there are several good live Jansch discs. "Live Down Under" is a nice performance. I'll see if I can post that on Plastic Palace People soon

  6. scurfie, thanks for inspiring me to do this post. I think it's one of my best

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