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Bert Jansch - Bert Jansch & Martin Jenkins: Avocet CD (album) cover


Bert Jansch


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4.34 | 17 ratings

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5 stars Saving the best for last.

Well, at least I was, as far as Bert Jansch album reviews. If any album in the Jansch canon could be considered pure Prog Folk, it's Avocet. Yet, I'm only the third reviewer of this incredible work from 1978 that Jansch never bettered, or even tried to.

It is, along with Rosemary Lane from 1971, a Jansch masterpiece. With only multi instrumentalist and drinking buddy Martin Jenkins (who is erroneously stated as this work's co author) and double bass great Danny Thompson from the Pentangle days, Jansch set out to produce his most daring work at a time of punk and other less than artistic genres.

The 18 minute title track is a reworking sparked off by the British traditional song The Cuckoo (the string picking American version), but's it's been morphed into something completely different by Bert and company. All instrumental, as are all of Avocet's songs, Jansch and company create a partially blank canvass in beautiful and dynamic musical suites that requires the listener to interpret the moods and place imaginary or real images inside of the songs. There's no percussion throughout this album as Jansch and Thompson's unorthodox playing styles incorporate string pops, snaps, slaps and all other kind of percussive sounds and supply their own percussion. Not even a bell or a chime is missed from the sound mix. Jenkin's is the melodic glue that hold these songs together with ultra melodic playing on both violin and flute while Jansch and Thompson engage in never ending guitar and bass duels punctuated by melodic contributions of their own.

Being a song suite is what render's Avocet progressive, but it's ultimately a beautiful song in which Jansch utilizes all his playing ability and individual style.

And if that wasn't impressive enough, the following song Lapwing displays Jansch on piano playing a hauntingly beautiful neo-classical piece that sounds like it could have easily been a prelude to an early seventies Turn Of The Cards era Renaissance song. Avocet is that kind of surprise album. The album's other four songs really need to be heard, especially the jazz fest Bittern (a treat for Pentangle fans that relished the deft improvisation of Thompson), and the ultra melodic hook laden Kingfisher, as descriptions by me would only do them a disservice.

The only downside to Avocet is some period sounding low level electric guitar used on a couple of songs to add color. The wah effect (even subtle) is terribly dated, even for 1978. But it's over quickly, just like this album is to the listener, as there's so much going on from and between the three core members including wonderful bass solos from Thompson, along with wonderfully rustic fiddle playing from Jenkins along with his deft mandocello paying that trades off the others on the album's fine closing track Kittiwake.

Avocet was an album made by Jansch on a whim. It's a once in a lifetime progressive rock achievement, and we're the better for having it. 5 stars.

SteveG | 5/5 |


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