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Bert Jansch - Heartbreak CD (album) cover


Bert Jansch


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4.17 | 3 ratings

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4 stars Out of chaos comes a classic.

After reviewing the rather ordinary When The Circus Comes To Town album by acoustic folk guitar maestro Bert Jansch, I felt it was necessary to uncover, and rediscover, one of Jansch's lost gems.

This reissued 2 LP (or 2 CD) set of the remastered 1982 Heartbreak album is a must have for Jansch's fans, and for fans of Folk and Folk Rock/Prog specifically.

This album was recorded in California by two novice brother producers named John and Bob Chelew, who captured Jansch at a time in his life that he himself recalled as 'dark' and when his over drinking was at its summit. Contrary to this, Jansch was in fine voice, still a maverick acoustic guitar player and, perhaps not surprisingly, was at the height of his songwriting powers.

Jansch's songs on this album are his most introspective and questioning of his life circumstances and relationships, and were also blessed with great melodicism. This was further enhanced by his passion for this material and for the faith his devoted producers had in him.

First off, Jansch stole back his arrangement of Blackwater Side (Black Mountain Side) from Jimmy Page for the album's first track. Jansch also added back the fantastic traitional song lyrics, along with a wonderful mandolin accompaniment that Zeppelin would have been envious of.

It's on this song that we are first introduced to the fantastic fretless bass playing of Randy Tico, that will become a hallmark of this album and brings Jansch into a more modern sound style for the first time in his career. Also assisting Jansch is Eric Clapton's sideman at the time, Albert Lee, who added electric guitar and the afore noted Mandolin, and acoustic guitar accompaniment as well. Two excellent studio drummers, Matt Betton and Jack Kelly, tastefully help to hold down the bottom end as Jansch, Tico and Lee weave intricate hypnotic melodies and rhythms around Jansch's songs.

The album's second track (this remaster has tracks lined up differently from the originally issued LP) Is It Real? shows Jansch at his most Dylan-like and again showcases Tioc's fretless slip sliding bass lines as Jancsh lyrically inquires if his partner's love is real. Lee supplys restrained but tastetful electric guitar licks for coloring while the drums are almost absent in the restraint that was required for this yearning ballad.

In contrast, the following song Up To The Stars finds Jansch at his most optimistic, while Tico's bass almost sounds like a counter vocal to Jancsh's verse and chorus, while Jansch sings about his love 'taking a shuttle up to the stars'. Lee starts to let loose a little more on this upbeat track without overstepping his limits.

Side one ends with a cover of the perennial folk classic Wild Mountain Thyme that allows for Jansch's real affection for this song to shine through and elevate it from just a filler track.

Side two of the vinyl remaster kicks off with the album's namesake, a cover of Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel. As soon as Janschs's alternately tuned guitar riff starts off the song, you know your in for something a little different as the Rock & Roll standard is covered in almost the same arrangement as Presley's, but Jansch wisely excises the songs original R & B strut for a more straight up rock arrangement that in the tune that results in feeling as if the song owes more to Pentangle then Presley, as a straight up cover would have sounded cheesy. And Jansch is way too classy for cheese. You can clearly tell that Jansch had great fun singing this cover. And he sung quite well at that!

Another heartfelt cover is found on side two, If I Were a Carpenter. Jansch's impassioned vocals again rises the level of the song to something better than a mere filler. As a matter of fact, passion seems to be the watchword for this album, as all involved easily show.

The side two remaster ends with an eight and a half minute jam appropriately titled Not A Word Was Said,. The song is based on a six note blues riff from Jansch and turns into a showcase for both Jansch and Tico. Bert uses every bit of his acoustic guitar skills for numerous bluesy leads that sound like his employs everthing from percussive string pops from his thumb pick to his finger nails and extensive use of hammer ons and pull offs. Tico, by the song's last three minutes has gone into full funk mode and duels with Jansch with finger pops of his own as well as thumb slaps. This jazzy concoction finally winds down with Jansch returning to his original 6 note riff.

The second disc contains a well recorded solo acoustic performance of Jansch from LA's acclaimed music club Gabe's Guitar Shop. There is no details on how this intimate performance was recorded, save for the actual recording date. Jansch is again in fine voice and his guitar skills are a clinic as he was playing to guitar students and was showing off his best skills. The song selection is outstanding and includes such Jansch concert standards such as Jackson C. Franks folk classic Blues Run The Game and, of course, Blackwater Side.

This remarkable sounding solo performance coupled with the original album make this an essential addition for both fans of Jancsh, Folk music and Folk Rock.

The material found on these albums is far from prog, but Tico's fretless bass does give the music a proggy feel. However, I'll keep my rating at 4.5 stars as it's obviously not an essential album for prog fans. Nevertheless, it's still highly recommended to fans of Jansch and British folk rock.

Thanks to Bob (clemofnazareth) for his many Bert Jansch album listings on PA. This has made my efforts a thousand times easier.

SteveG | 4/5 |


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