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Bert Jansch - Bert Jansch & John Renbourn: Bert And John [Aka: Stepping Stones] CD (album) cover


Bert Jansch

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5 stars One of the Defining Albums of Folk Baroque

Bert Jansch and John Renbourn were some of the most important guitarists of the "2nd" English folk revival of the 60's that coincided with the similar American movement. Jansch's quirky guitar style was an extension and evolution of Davy Graham's pioneering work, while Renbourne combined early American country blues guitar stylings with European medieval folk. Together, they helped create a sound called "folk baroque" that also drew from American jazz and Northern African influences. While many of the solo albums from this group of musicians are folk with some progressive tendencies, BERT AND JOHN draws on so many influences and highlights enough new ideas that I think "prog folk" is a truly apt description.

To be certain, the two guitarists have a much wider concept of harmony than that found in American folk and old-time music. The jazz influence is most obvious on a cover of Charles Mingus' classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." Alternate tunings and modal ideas abound, which will remind most of Jimmy Page or perhaps Nick Drake. (If you imagine those two with acoustic guitars and in a good mood, that might approach the sound of this disc.) Both Jansch and Renbourne play intricate rhythm ideas based on strong fingerstyle skills. But the core sound is Jansch's elaborate accompaniment with Renbourn's ornamentation and bendy soloing. Pentangle fans will recognize the sounds here immediately.

"After the Dance" superficially is based on a single plodding bass note but both guitarists weave in and around this pulse in a snaky twirl. At times they seem to be simply soloing independently, and then will lock in for a phrase like the best jazz combos. "East Wind" is a more composed piece with the two fingerstyle parts creating an enormous sound. The whole recording is recorded very upfront and clean, with the guitars sounding just as they would if the two were giving a living room concert. Davy Graham's taste for Moroccan tonality slips in subtly in various bends and note choices. Despite a fairly wide base of songs choices, the sound of the two is consistent and solid. The album is also well paced with just the right combination of variety and identity.

I've been searching for the best example of this sound for a long time. The tastes I first got from Led Zeppelin III and later from the Pentangle may reach their peak here. Though the vocals and amazing rhythm section of this pair's later group were delicious, they did place a constraint on the pure guitar bliss found here.

I initially intended to give this 4 stars but on repeated listening for this review, this may be the best of its kind. Whether Folk Baroque, Prog Folk, or whatever label you choose, this sound is unique and this album is a masterpiece within the style. Highly highly recommended.

Report this review (#743326)
Posted Monday, April 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another wonderful and necessary record to accompany listening to the early Pentangle canon is this 'folk baroque' classic collaboration by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn that is a powerhouse recording of mostly titillating and jaw dropping instrumentals that runs the gamut of Arabic scales raga (East Wind) to psychic call and response playing on blues, jazz, Elizabethan styled songs (Piano Tune, Good Bye Pork Pie Hat, Orlando)and exciting self penned songs that show off the duo's virtuoso playing chops (Tic-Tocative, No Exit and Stepping Stones). The record also contains two songs that were sung numbers by Jansch, the dark and brooding 'Soho' and the Anne Briggs penned 'The Time Has Come'. 'Soho' is an instant classic while 'The Time Has Come' is less successful and would be reinterpreted by The Pentangle a few years later with greater success. Indeed, The Pentangle would also remake 'Pork Pie Hat' and 'No Exit' on their second album Sweet Child and comparing the development of these songs is part of the fun for Pentangle aficionados.

The Castle remaster sports the best sound ever heard for this recording and is, as usual, graced with detailed liner notes by noted Jansch biographer Colin Harper and also sports some never before seen pics of our heroes. If you've run out of early Pentangle albums to savor, then this disc is the place to fill that void. 5 Stars.

Report this review (#1919732)
Posted Saturday, May 5, 2018 | Review Permalink

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