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BERT JANSCH

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Bert Jansch biography
BERT JANSCH was a pivotal Scottish folk-rock musician who rose to prominence during the modern folk revival period of the mid- and late-sixties. He was a founding member of the PENTANGLE as well as a prolific solo artist, and collaborated widely with such folk-rock luminaries as ANNIE BRIGGS, JOHN RENBOURN, MARTIN JENKINS, DAVEY GRAHAM, VASHTI BUNYAN, ROD CLEMENTS and next-generation folkers like DEVENDRA BANHART and HOPE SANDOVAL.

Jansch was a multi-instrumentalist, playing banjo, dulcimer, recorder, piano, electric guitar and concertina live and in the studio at various times, but was most known for his work on acoustic guitar and a huge portfolio of original compositions as well as innovative arrangements and interpretations of traditional and contemporary folk music.

Jansch lost a long battle with cancer on October 5, 2011, less than two months after his final live performance at the Royal Festival Hall in London. His influence lives on in the form of new folk-rock and neo-folk courtesy of scores of modern 21st century folk artists.

>> Bio by Bob Moore (aka ClemofNazareth) <<

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Rosemary LaneRosemary Lane
Import
Castle Music UK 2001
Audio CD$4.70
$7.98 (used)
From the OutsideFrom the Outside
Earth Recordings 2016
Audio CD$9.89
$12.04 (used)
Birthday BluesBirthday Blues
Import
Castle Music UK 2002
Audio CD$4.73
$20.95 (used)
It Don`t Bother Me - Bert JanschIt Don`t Bother Me - Bert Jansch
Import
SANCTUARY 2015
Audio CD$4.86
$15.62 (used)
AvocetAvocet
Limited Edition · Remastered
Earth Recordings 2016
Audio CD$11.02
$12.15 (used)
MoonshineMoonshine
Earth Recordings 2015
Audio CD$9.69
$11.85 (used)
Dazzling StrangerDazzling Stranger
PID
Audio CD$32.90
$32.89 (used)
Bert Jansch - Bert JanschBert Jansch - Bert Jansch
Import
SANCTUARY 2015
Audio CD$4.71
$10.51 (used)
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2h 55m
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BERT JANSCH discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

BERT JANSCH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.94 | 8 ratings
Bert Jansch
1965
5.00 | 1 ratings
It Don't Bother Me
1965
3.56 | 6 ratings
Jack Orion (w/ John Renbourn)
1966
4.78 | 4 ratings
Bert and John (w/ John Renbourn)
1966
3.08 | 3 ratings
Nicola
1967
3.00 | 2 ratings
Birthday Blues
1969
4.56 | 7 ratings
Rosemary Lane
1971
3.75 | 4 ratings
Moonshine
1972
3.92 | 3 ratings
L.A. Turnaround
1974
2.08 | 3 ratings
Santa Barbara Honeymoon
1975
0.00 | 0 ratings
Poor Mouth
1976
2.00 | 1 ratings
A Rare Conundrum
1977
4.33 | 14 ratings
Avocet (w/ Martin Jenkins)
1978
4.00 | 1 ratings
Thirteen Down (aka Conundrum)
1980
4.09 | 2 ratings
Heartbreak
1982
0.00 | 0 ratings
From the Outside
1985
0.00 | 0 ratings
Leather Launderette (w/ Rod Clements)
1988
0.00 | 0 ratings
Sketches
1990
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Ornament Tree
1990
2.00 | 1 ratings
When the Circus Comes to Town
1995
4.00 | 1 ratings
Toy Balloon
1998
3.00 | 1 ratings
Crimson Moon
2000
0.00 | 0 ratings
Edge of a Dream
2002
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Black Swan
2006

BERT JANSCH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at La Foret (w/ Martin Jenkins)
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
BBC Radio One Live in Concert
1993
4.00 | 1 ratings
Live at the 12 Bar: An Authorised Bootleg
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Young Man's Blues - Live In Glasgow 1962-1964
1998
4.00 | 1 ratings
Downunder: Live in Australia
2001
4.00 | 1 ratings
The River Sessions
2004
0.00 | 0 ratings
Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning
2007
0.00 | 0 ratings
An Acoustic Hour With Bert Jansch
2010
4.00 | 1 ratings
Sweet Sweet Music
2012

BERT JANSCH Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Fresh As a Sweet Sunday Morning
2007

BERT JANSCH Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Lucky Thirteen
1966
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Bert Jansch Sampler
1969
0.00 | 0 ratings
Box of Love: The Bert Jansch Sampler Vol. 2
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Bert Jansch
1973
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Guitar of Bert Jansch
1977
0.00 | 0 ratings
Anthology
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best of Bert Jansch
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Gardener: Essential Bert Jansch 1965 - 1971
1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
After the Dance (w/ John Renbourn)
1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
Three Chord Trick
1993
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Collection
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Blackwater Side
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
An Introduction to Bert Jansch
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Dazzling Stranger
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Legend: the Classic Recordings
2003
0.00 | 0 ratings
Running From Home: An Introduction to Bert Jansch
2005
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Essential Bert Jansch
2009
0.00 | 0 ratings
Angie: The Collection
2011

BERT JANSCH Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Needle of Death
1966

BERT JANSCH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Avocet (w/ Martin Jenkins) by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.33 | 14 ratings

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Avocet (w/ Martin Jenkins)
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The listeners of classic British folk-rock remember guitarist Bert Jansch as a key member of PENTANGLE (which, by the way, I consider musically more competent than Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span). Jansch was a respected musician already before that band, and has expanded his solo output for decades. This well received instrumental album from 1978 was recently re- released by Earth Records. All ornithologists will be delighted by the colour drawings and Latin names of the birds that gave their names for the tracks. Als the album cover is new, with more linear graphics.

The title composition that fills an entire vinyl side (17:59) is the obvious main dish, magnum opus. It's a harmonic, beautiful, very naturally flowing Folk Prog piece. Notice that the whole album is percussionless. There really is no need for them, as the trio -- the composer Bert Jansch on guitars and piano, Martin Jenkins on mandocello (!?), violin and flute, and the mighty, unmistakable Danny Thompson on jazz-rooted bass -- use their Instruments to create dynamic, organic and absolutely pure & honest music that breathes like nature itself.

The five shorter tracks aren't bad either, if not as impressive. 'Lapwing' is a brief, piano centred tune in minor key. 'Bittern' (7:49) has the richest arrangement of these, highlighting a tasty combination of acoustic and electric guitars. 'Kingfisher' with its guitar tapping and violin has a "swampy" atmosphere, and the violin takes even bigger role on 'Osprey'. 'Kittiwake' (the drawing reveals that the bird belongs to the seagull family) ends the album in a light-hearted manner.

This was my first acquaintance to Bert Jansch's solo vast discography, but I'm interested to find some more, both instrumental and vocal music. Listen to this music with an open mind and you'll enjoy its natural beauty even if it at first may appear as slightly boring. But despite acknowledging the high musical quality, my real subjective rating is only 3½ stars, since in the end there wasn't very much emotions involved in the listening.

 Avocet (w/ Martin Jenkins) by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.33 | 14 ratings

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Avocet (w/ Martin Jenkins)
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by GKR

5 stars I've always been a regular listener of early Bert Jansch - especially Nicola, Birthday Blues and Rosemary Lane. Already in the first seconds of Avocet, I knew this was a whole different album.

The violin, cello an the flute in the great first track (a whole epic of 17min in 1978!) gave a breath to Bert's guitar that was never present in his early albums. Celtic folksy atmosphere is also news - and a good one, certainly. The distorted guitar (is that right?) in the second song also shows Bert going places with his chords wuthout really moving too much. He repeat formulas that were succeded in early albums with a different approach. Almost minimalistic revolutionarie changes (is THAT right?). Even when Bert do a more basic base to the violin and cello solo, the instruments are married as I would never dream... I guess I have a new favourite Bert Janch album.

So... 4,5 stars rounded to 5? Yeah, I guess thats it.

 L.A. Turnaround by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.92 | 3 ratings

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L.A. Turnaround
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars L.A. Turnaround from 1974 was supposed to be the album that turned Bert Jansch's career around after the dissolution of The Pentangle one year earlier. Sadly, it was not, but not due to a lack of trying.

Signed to Charisma by the eccentric Tony Stratton Smith, Jansch finally felt free to shake off the chains that he perceived had creatively bound him up at his tenure with the Pentangle. Where Pentangle co-founder John Renbourn found strength in group numbers, Jansch found himself increasingly marginalized and frustrated.

Both Smith and Jansch had a shared vision of casting Jansch as one of the then popular west coast singer songwriters, and Jansch was armed with an array of beautiful songs and a couple of stellar instrumentals to set off on his new journey. Smith employed ex Monkey Mike Nesmith as producer, which is not as far fetched as it sounds, as Nesmith was an accomplished folk songwriter that had penned the sixties Linda Ronstadt/Stone Ponies hit Different Drum and knew his way around L.A. recording studios and session men.

As LA Turnaround was out of print for some 25 years before reappearing on CD in 2009, there has been much mythologizing about the initial recording events in the UK of Jansch, Nesmith, and Nesmith's pal, L. A. session pedal steer guitar great O.J. 'Red" Rhodes, who was the American counterpart to British pedal steel great B.J. Cole.

The first cut on the CD remaster is Jansch's concert staple Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning, which is beautifully enhanced by Rhodes subtle pedal steel and some deft accompaniment by famous Beatles' friend, and a session great himself, Klaus Voorman on bass. Jancsh's voice is perfect for this relaxed tune and doesn't sound strained, which would carryover through every vocal song on the album.

Immediately following is Jansch's seminal instrumental Chambertin, which is a solo Jansch acoustic guitar clinic deftly demonstrating his long fascination with intricate rhythmic 'circular' guitar chords interjected with his trademark string snaps, bends and pops, which still has people, who don't know better, arguing if its really two guitars playing or just one.

The bittersweet One For Jo follows with Jansch giving advise to a female friend to embrace her dreamer of a husband as its a wonderful quality as far as Jansch is concerned. Sound advice? Perhaps not, but it is beautifully presented solo by Jansch.

Traveling Man and Stone Monkey continues Jansch's great songwriting blitz with clever words to go along with these cleaver melodies.

An unremarkable cover of one of his debut album's seminal songs Needle Of Death lacks the urgency and hurt in Jansch's vocals but his wonderful retelling of John Renbourn's pseudo Elizabethan instrumental Lady Nothing is a stunning follow up and restores the mood of the album.

The bonus tracks offer a look at some alternate album takes and the darker jazz piano inflicted version of The Blacksmith would have been a better album closer then it's more upbeat original, as it returns Jansch to his better known darker musical and lyrical visions. Se le vie.

In Britain, L.A. Turnaround should have been received as Bert Jansch's Harvest, but perhaps because the singer songwriter movement was wanning in 1974, coupled with the fact that Charisma was never known for it's marketing abilities, probably stymied the album's initial reception. But L.A. Turnaround is a high water mark in the Bert Jansch canon that he would seldom top, except for his unexpected and little known masterpiece released in 1978 title Avocet.

 Avocet (w/ Martin Jenkins) by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.33 | 14 ratings

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Avocet (w/ Martin Jenkins)
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

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.

 Jack Orion (w/ John Renbourn) by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 1966
3.56 | 6 ratings

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Jack Orion (w/ John Renbourn)
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by Progfan97402

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!
 Toy Balloon by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Toy Balloon
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

— First review of this album —
4 stars Folk, Blues and Beyond.

Those familiar with the works of Davy Graham will immediately recognize that the title of my review was lifted from Graham's incredibly influential album of the same name. It was Graham's albums like this and 3/4 AD, along with the genre defining classic Folk Roots: New Routes, that had an incredible impact on the sixties English folk boom and subsequent folk rock groups like Jansch's Pentangle, which combined elements of folk, blues and very hip jazz into the Pentangle sound. (Regardless of how much the late Bert Jansch may have denied it in later years. Jansch and Graham were not particularly fond of each other, so Jansch's declaration should best be taken with a grain of salt. Especially owing to the fact that Jansch sited Graham as his major influence back in his early folk club days.)

That's also the reason why Toy Balloon works so well on so many levels and why Jansch actually sounds enthusiastic when he recorded this material. Dismissed by many Jansch aficionados as merely When The Circus Comes To Town Part Two, this album is anything but a sequel.

Where "Circus" (as Jansch called it) was mired in a middle ground of easy listening folk rock exercises, Toy Balloon shows Bert back in his folk/blues/jazz groove with a welcome cover of ill-fated contemporary Jackson C. Frank's eerie minor key ballad (My Name Is) Carnival as the album's lead off track, followed directly with Jansch's arrangement of the English traditional folksong She Moved Through The Fair. Both feature just Jansch and his acoustic Yamaha. Jancsh's patented string snapping playing style and mesmerizing finger picking on this album is admirable, as is Jansch's abandon and confidence when singing. Something that was sorely lacking from the previously mentioned "Circus" album from 1995.

Jansch switches gears from folk to blues with his self penned nugget titled All I've Got, which features some great harp blowing from guest guitarist Johnny Hodge, who also adds some great slide guitar to this infectious track.

Waiting And Wondering and Hey Doc are Jansch's nods to his other prime influences as he channels the blues from his freely acknowledged boyhood heroes, Lightnin' Hopkins and Brownie McGee, respectively (along with a looser nod to Jansch's other early hero, Big Bill Broonzy, on the afore noted All I've Got.) Again, Jansch absolutely shines while delivering typical acoustic blues originals.

Jansch then switches gears back to solo acoustic with the slight instrumental titled Bert's Dance, before Jansch sings elegantly on the album's title track, another ballad before Bert get's jazzy and hands over some inspired R&B (with smoking sax) on two tracks that almost feel out of place on this album's nod back to Jansch's roots and inspirations. How It All Came Down actually sounds like Jansch channeling Steely Dan with this funky R&B and Jazz workout. Just substitute Donald Fagan's voice for that of Jansch's. Out of place or not, this is Jansch at his most inspired in years, with Jansch ending this wonderful outing with a heart rending autobiographical solo ballad titled Just A Simple Soul.

There's nothing ground breaking or particularly progressive about Toy Balloon except that it's a return to both form and quality by the late Scottish folk and blues guitar legend. 3.5 stars.

 Santa Barbara Honeymoon by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 1975
2.08 | 3 ratings

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Santa Barbara Honeymoon
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

2 stars Sometimes change is good. Sometimes change is bad. And sometimes change is just strange, as is the case of Bert Jansch's 1975 album Santa Barbara Honeymoon.

Recorded after Jansch's excellent first album for the British Charisma label, LA Turnaround from 1974, Santa Barbara Honeymoon sounds more like a wrong turn at times. In an effort, I would guess, to modernize his sound, Jansch utilized an obscure record producer, who was a studio musician, and a cast of thousands in the form of studio support players to produce an album that sounds quite polished but gives one the "who are you trying to kid?" feeling, as Jansch tackles songs with male and female backing vocals that come off like a Nashville studio choir on Love Anew and When The Teardrops Fell. Horns and female backing are featured on a swampy New Orleans jazz style are featured on the Song Dance Lady Dance, with an arrangement and instrumentation that sounds like it was pirated from Dr.John The Night Tripper.

This fascinating mix of styles even includes steel drums (!) on the songs Baby Blue and Build Another Band.

Like a hideous highway accident, it's hard to look away from this auto wreck, as it's just unbelievable that someone like Jansch could make an album so far out of his acoustic folk rock comfort zone. However, if you can look past the billowing blaze, you will find that great songs lie at the heart of this album and given enough time, the great melodies and lyrics will break through on occasion.

I guess that's why I've played Santa Barbara Honeymoon about five times before writing this review. It's just too strange an album from Jansch to be ignored, that eventually reveals the treasure hidden beneath the surface. But still, I cannot recommend it. If LA Turnaround puts one in a California state of mind, Santa Barbara Honeymoon will send you straight back to New York, both mentally and physically, on the next fight out. 2 stars.

 The Black Swan by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.00 | 3 ratings

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The Black Swan
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars What a difference a decade makes.

In what I believe is the late Bert Jansch's last recorded album, Black Swan, is as good as anything he has produced in the sixties and seventies, and is light years above his highly vaunted "return to form" album, 1995's When The Circus Comes To Town. The Black Swan is everything that When The Circus Comes To Town was not . Whatever it is that inspires gifted artists to raise their game was definitely evident on this album as Jansch's songwriting is once again stellar and his guitar playing, though still a bit restrained, is as impressive as ever with Jansch occasionally but briefly taking off in flights of fancy that come to close to Flamenco styles runs along with his ever present percussive string pops and his basic ability to sound like a guitarist born with an extra hand.

Jansch's voice shows only a sliver of hoarseness, which is amazing considering the abuse he had put it through. Indeed, it makes songs like the title track even more heartfelt with his world weary delivery

The title track is also the album's lead off song and it's one of Jansch's best. Just Bert and his guitar explaining about the hopelessness of space travelers searching for a new home. The Black Swan is their vehicle, and the planet they have escaped is no logner habitable. (Earth in the future?). A beautifully mournful cello accompanies this song along with ominous percussion that sounds off in the song's coda.

High Days is a Jansch remembrance song of a long ago love that brilliantly features just Bert and his guitar.

When The Sun Comes Up is a Jansch original song by guest vocalist Beth Orten, who has a beautiful voice with a slight hoarseness similar to Janschs' and it complements his own very well, especially on the traditional song Watch The Stars, which is song as a duet and is an old Pentangle standard that was originally sung by Pentangle member and past Jansch solo collaborator, the late great John Renbourn.

Jansch also resurrects his signature Pentangle song A Woman Like You which is infinitely more soulful and heartfelt this time around, and is given a country lilt thanks to a change in the song's arrangement by Jansch.

Bring Your Religion and Texas Cowboy Blues give Jansch a chance to rock out with a full rhythm section and deft slide guitar work from guest player Richard Wood. Both songs also give Jansch a chance to be topical, especially on Texas Cowboy Blues, which is an unabashed swipe at the then presiding Bush policies regarding the Iraq invasion.

Madellina's Dance is a banjo duet with Jansch and guest player Paul Wasif that also features flute from guest Maggie Boyle. It's not the best instrumental that I've ever heard forn Jansch but it's a good set up for closing track Hey Pretty Girl. Another quality Jansch original featuring just Bert and guitar performing the the guitar wizardry stated in my opening. Great stuff and a wonderful return to form from one the greatest, and deeply missed, acoustic guitar masters. 4 stars.

 Heartbreak by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 1982
4.09 | 2 ratings

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Heartbreak
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

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.

 When the Circus Comes to Town by JANSCH, BERT album cover Studio Album, 1995
2.00 | 1 ratings

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When the Circus Comes to Town
Bert Jansch Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

— First review of this album —
2 stars After hearing so many good things about this album, such as 'this is one of Bert's best albums in years', etc. I have to admit that I was very disappointed by the pedestrian sounding songs on this album from the late acoustic guitar master recorded and released in 1995. Jansch was definitely going through a renaissance as a song writer in the nineties and had written some of the best material for the Pentangle prior to this album. I'm afraid that songs that Pentangle made complete with Jacqui McShee's stellar vocals and emotive delivery just didn't transfer well as Jancsh solo material. That said, I can say is that the better songs on this album are relaxing and pleasant, and the lesser ones are not offensive, just forgettable. The few tracks that stand out are the jazzy Summer Heat, that features some hot guest sax playing and the catchy Just a Dream.

I would highly recommend to those just discovering the genius of Bert Jansch to stick to his late sixties classics (barring his embarrassing pop effort Nicola) and his stellar seventies classics such as Crimson Moon and the exquisite Avocet album from 1979. There are many great Bert Jansch albums worth owning. This is not one.

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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