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Bert Jansch - Jack Orion CD (album) cover


Bert Jansch

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3 stars A good 3.0.

When I look at the different track listings of this album on PA, Windows Media Player, and Wikipedia, I can't help myself but ask this question: "Why does this obscure folk work have different running orders on different sources?" Let's just discuss the music itself.

Spoiler alert: you won't hear any prog. But don't lose all of your faith in this album if you are still looking for some good music and you haven't found it yet, unless you are not into folk. Half of the record is a set of my personal favorites. 'Waggoner's Lad' is a traditional folk piece played on a banjo by the legend himself, Bert Jansch, who is backed by his future Pentangle buddy John Renbourn. The whole thing sounds so darn catchy and has a good beat. Just think back to Led Zeppelin's 'Bron-Y-Aur Stomp' if you still remember that one. If you want some more traditional folk, there you have it in the face of 'Black Water Side', where Bert's technique and vocal melodies won't let you down. Again, think Led Zeppelin. Does 'Black Mountain Side' ring any bells? After that comes my biggest favorite, as you can see that in the ratings below. 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' is Bert's rendition of an old Ewan McColl song, and this cover sounds pretty similar in melody, rhythm, and tempo to 'Black Water Side'. But what is it that makes this one so different from the previous track? 'The First Time Ever' is played in a different key and the melody is a tiny bit different, and that makes all the difference for me. By the way, have you ever heard an inebriated gardener? Well, Bert was one of them on 'The Gardener'. The way he sings with that slight growl on occasions is just so remarkable. As for the music, it sounds somewhat similar to the previous tracks. Who said that 'tis a sin to recycle own music? If J. S. Bach used to do that, why couldn't Bert? As for the rest of the album, the tracks sound very much alike and there isn't that much variety in texture. At least the music isn't over the top. Check out 'Pretty Polly' and 'Henry Martin' where the buzzing guitar sounds like a saw.

Ratings/comments (if you have to ask):

1. 'The Waggoner's Lad' - **** ; 2. 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' - ***** ; 3. 'Jack Orion' - ** ; 4. 'The Gardener' - **** ; 5. 'Nottamun Town' - ** ; 6. 'Henry Martin' - ** ; 7. 'Black Water Side' - **** ; 8. 'Pretty Polly' - ** ; 9. '900 Miles' - ** ;

Stamp: "I like it."

Report this review (#718324)
Posted Monday, April 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Digging to the Source

My love of acoustic guitar sprang largely from a little boy named Jimmy Page. His slightly exotic and Celtic flavors on the Led Zeppelin albums always appealed to me, and one of the most impressive outings was a little piece from LZ I called "Black Mountain Side." I have never really been able to nail this piece, but I've certainly tried. Over the years, I finally found that the piece is essentially ripped straight from the English Dylan, Bert Jansch. As I've combed through Jansch's works, it is clear that this album, JACK ORION, is one that Page must have listened to over and over.

For me, the big track initially was "Black Waterside." Anne Briggs gave Jansch this tune during an earlier collaboration, and he arranged the iconic guitar part that Page lifted. But Jansch also uses the same rolling rhythm and style on "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" and "The Gardener." However, the great opener "The Waggoner's Lad" was also accessed liberally by Pagey most notably on "Bron-y-Aur Stomp." "Lad" is a great duet with Jansch playing banjo and John Renbourne playing lead guitar. Both guitarists learned at the foot of the legendary Davy Graham, with Renbourne becoming the more schooled player and Jansch the more moody. This contrast works extremely well musically. The pair really shine on "Henry Martin," creating a shimmery sound that I've really found nowhere else.This would foreshadow the duo's fantastic group Pentangle. Renbourne helps on several other tracks and in fact Jansch recording will officially be under the duo.

Jansch's voice is fairly melancholy and languid which is great for this style of folk, but may not be everyone's cup of tea. He does kick it up a notch for "Nottamun Town." Clearly, Jansch's forte is his guitar work, which is quite fresh and energetic here. This album is not really prog in any classic sense, but Jansch's advanced technique and sound went on to infuse a number of bands that we think of as prog folk. Jansch himself has more "progressive" records.

Thus, I am giving this a good but non-essential rating despite its excellent quality. If you like English folk guitar, this may be a near essential recording.

Report this review (#742979)
Posted Monday, April 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars OK, so I own the 1970 American version on Vanguard (same label that brought you Joan Baez and Country Joe & the Fish), so this was released some four years later, with a totally different cover (a 1970 picture of Bert Jansch on the cover) and the songs switched around. This is without a doubt my favorite folk album ever. This is straight-up folk, not even folk rock, but even here you can hear elements of what would become the Pentangle, which comes as no surprise, given he and John Renbourn had released albums under their names and together prior to the Pentangle. Here you get "Black Water Side", much talked about, especially because that was the basis for Jimmy Page on Zeppelin's "Black Mountainside", but then it was actually a traditional folk song, but make no mistake the guitar picking from Jansch, and hearing that again on Zeppelin's first album. There's Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", which he did with wife Peggy Seeger, and later on in 1969 by Roberta Flack (which became a big hit for her in 1972). Jansch's version is all instrumental, though. "Pretty Polly" is a nice folk song, plus you get another version of "Nottamun Town", which many of you should be familiar with through Fairport Convention's second album What We Did On Our Holidays (or simply Fairport Convention in the States on A&M, with a different cover, not to be confuse with the self-entitled debut that was released in Polydor in the UK, but Cotillion in the US). The title track is amazing, a great folk epic. If you know the version of the Pentangle's Cruel Sister, then you'll notice this one is at a much faster tempo, and half as long. If you didn't care for the slower pace of the Pentangle version, you'll like this one much better. Might not be quite prog folk here, it was 1966, after all, but a real enjoyable folk album!
Report this review (#1431955)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The third part of the archetype for the sound of future folk rock band The Pentangle, along with John Renbourn's Another Monday and the Jansch/Renbourn collaboration tilted Bert & John. The solo Jansch album Jack Orion, to me, may be the least accessible but the most important. By this time Bert Jansch hit upon adding musical accompaniment to traditional British folk songs using alternate guitar tunings such as DADGAD to create droning pseudo Celtic musical atmospheres. Employing his future Pentangle band mate John Renbourn to supplement his singing and playing on songs like 'Pretty Polly', 'The Wagoner's Lad', 'Henry Martin', and the stunning 9 minute long title track. Indeed, 'Jack Orion' may seem like a song with overlong verbiage but it is a long detailed Shakespearian-like drama that rewards close listening as the lyrics deal with deceit, betrayal, revenge, murder and suicide. All the key musical and lyrical elements that would soon find its way into the Pentangle's sound and make the band so great and so unique. Other album highlights include an acoustic reading of Ewan MacColl's 'The First Time Ever I saw Your Face' and Jansch's seminal adaption of the evergreen traditional song 'Blackwater Side'. 4 stars.
Report this review (#1932116)
Posted Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Review Permalink

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