Tag Archive | "Bert Jansch"

Bert Jansch – Just A Simple Soul

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Bert Jansch – Just A Simple Soul

Posted on 10 October 2018 by Joe

There are plenty of Bert Jansch compilations that take in his 1960s and early 1970s heyday. But this behemoth of a collection from BMG offers something far more career spanning.

By also dipping into the highlights from his mid-1970s through to a renaissance in the early 21st century this may well be the definitive Bert Jansch collection.

Jansch.jpg

The first CD contains exactly what Jansch admirers would expect. Strolling Down the Highway, Needle of Death and his take on the classic Angie are essential inclusions. As is Black Water Side, It Don’t Bother Me and a sprinkling of tracks from his 1971 classic Rosemary Lane, including the traditional Reynardine and title track.

This first half is a 14 track set of remarkable consistency, with his evocative laid back vocals and stunning guitar work, showcased to perfection.

Intriguing later career

 

But it’s the second half that is perhaps more interesting, as his career stop-started due to ill health.

Among the many high points from this period is what turned out to be his final album, 2006’s Black Swan, which sees Jansch joined by among others Beth Orton, and Devendra Banhart. The best partnership here though is on the title track, in which Helena Espvall’s haunting cello proved the perfect foil for Jansch’s voice and intricate guitar play.

Its also great to hear Kittiwake, a track from 1979’s ornithological concept album Avocet. This saw Jansch reunite with Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson and also joined by multi-instrumentalist Martin Jenkins.

Bert Jansch (centre) performing with Pentangle at Glastonbury 2011

Bert Jansch (centre) performing with Pentangle at Glastonbury 2011

There’s also the welcome addition of Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning and Chambertin, from the Mike Nesmith produced LA Turnaround (1974). His cover of Jackson C. Frank’s Carnival, from 1998’s Toy Balloon is another essential part of this collection.

What’s particularly refreshing about this compilation is that it acts as both a definitive collection, as well as a taster to encourage further investigation of his back catalogue.

Jansch sadly passed away in 2011, at the age of 67, leaving an incredible back catalogue that helped influence artists as diverse as Jimmy Page and Nick Drake to Johnny Marr and the Fleet Foxes. It is welcome to see his five decade spanning career at last captured in one place.

9/10

By Joe Lepper

Bert Jansch – Just A Simple Soul is released on October 26. More details here.

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Bert Jansch – Avocet

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Bert Jansch – Avocet

Posted on 15 February 2016 by Joe

I’m lucky living near the Somerset levels. I do most of my music reviewing there while dog walking across its muddy fields and streams, flanked by Glastonbury Tor to one side, the chimneys of the former Clarks shoe factory in Street to the other. At dusk and dawn in winter the sky is dominated by waves of starling murmurations. During summer the herons take charge, fishing in the River Brue while the kingfishers whizz past and the buzzards and crows fight overhead.

avocet

For the next in this excellent set of Bert Jansch reissues by Earth Recordings they have picked Avocet, a quite simply beautiful collection of instrumentals  inspired by this legendary folk artist’s own love of birds and nature and seemingly tailor made for my Somerset strolls.

Each track focuses on one bird, perfectly encapsulating their movement and daily life, including the perils and beauty of nature, from the kingfisher’s flash of electric blue across water to an Osprey looking for prey. Kingfisher immediately chimes with me as a bird I see regularly. The pace of the music is graceful but still conveys the sheer speed of this lovely bird as it darts around the river. Other birds I’m less familiar with, like the Avocet, I just have to imagine. Jansch does a fine job of helping me there with this 18 minute long album opener turning effortlessly from peaceful meander to frantic folk jam.

As well as the compositions it sounds great too. Released in 1979 there are flashes of the folk electric guitar playing that Jansch pioneered in his Pentangle days. The album also features his Pentangle bandmate Danny Thompson on his unmistakable double bass as well as Martin Jenkins’ mandocello, violin and flute to provide added quality to the mix.

Once again this was an album that is new to me via the Earth Recording reissues. I’m starting to wonder how I survived all these years of birdwatching and walking around the countryside without it for so long.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Bert Jansch – Moonshine

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Bert Jansch – Moonshine

Posted on 15 December 2015 by Joe

Just what was the peak of Bert Jansch’s remarkable, five-decade spanning, folk music career?

For some it was his early albums that rode the wave of the 1960s folk music explosion across Britain and the US, while for some it was his Pentangle super group, folk rock hey-day in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

moonshine

Moonshine (1973) , recorded as Pentangle were breaking up, though puts forward as good a case as any for being Jansch’s peak.

Not only has he assembled one of the best group of backing musicians and production teams, but he still manages to ensure this release is intimate and embedded with his rootsy, warm charm.

Released this month as part of Earth Recordings welcome re-issuing of Jansch’s albums, this is one of the best folk rock releases of the time, unsurprising though given he had drafted in Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson, Fairport Convention percussionist Dave Mattacks as well as David Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti for production and arranging duties.

The stellar cast doesn’t stop there with Ralph McTell joining on harmonic, Ali Bain on fiddle and Mary Hopkin on backing vocals.

The results are often flawless. On opener Yarrow the medieval woodwind and Jansch’s honest vocals create a perfect opener with the title track another high point as he sings this tragic tale of a prisoner awaiting his fate with genuine “sweet music to drag my grief away.”

On Night Time Blues the full band feel is perhaps best revealed, especially with the violins and on Oh My Father the electric guitar folk that Jansch used to great effect in Pentangle, gets a welcome outing.

The only weak point for me is an overly ambitious version of Ewan MacColl’s The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, where the vocal interplay with Hopkins gets a little too tangled in places. It’s only a small gripe though on what is a fantastic chance to rediscover one of UK music’s best artists, arguably at his peak.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

More details about Bert Jansch – Moonshine can be found here.

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Bert Jansch – Live At the 12 Bar

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Bert Jansch – Live At the 12 Bar

Posted on 31 July 2015 by Joe

Bert Jansch’s passing in 2011 was a tragedy for music. From the 1960s right up until his later years this stellar guitarist and underrated songwriter was capable of hanging onto his old fans and still bring in new ones alike, especially with his excellent 2006 album Black Swan.

jansch

A key factor in his enduring appeal was his effortlessly dazzling guitar playing and his place in music history, along with Davy Graham and John Renbourn, in taking folk music to new and sometimes even exotic levels.

In short the man was a legend. But he didn’t do legendary gigs, instead they were often warm intimate affairs, and this 1996 gig at the 12 Bar is no exception. As ever his guitar playing here is beautiful and the mix of songs spanning his career to date, including favourites such as Blackwater Slide, Woman Like You and Strolling Down the Highway, gives it a greatest hits feel and therefore makes it a superb introduction to his work for the uninitiated.

Don’t expect long rambling banter from Bert though. That gets in the way of the songs and his chats here are brief, but to the point and still friendly. He’ll make a wry aside here and there and focus on giving a small piece of detail about the song, which is why he was on stage in the first place after all. During such brief interludes he takes time to make sure the name Jackson C Frank is remembered during his cover of the American songwriter’s Blues Run The Game. Same goes for Victor Jara, the murdered Chilean folk singer who is the subject of Let Me Sing.

Is this live set exceptional? No, but crucially it is typical of a warm spirited, much missed giant of English music.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Various – Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music

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Various – Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music

Posted on 17 August 2012 by Joe

Rob Young’s book Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary  Music, started life looking at the increasing popularity and electrification of folk music during the late 1960s and early 1970s. But as he delved further back into the inspiration behind acts such as Pentangle, Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band the book became much more. By the end he’d created an essential guide to British folk music from the 19th century to the present day, with Vaughn Williams and Talk Talk getting as much prominence as the likes of Sandy Denny and Bert Jansch as Young challenged the notion of ‘folk music’ and explored generations of musicians’ search for ‘Albion.’

Universal has now decided to offer a musical companion piece to the book, offering up 36 tracks  across two discs, all chosen by Young and focusing on the 1960s and 1970s folk scenes that started him on his journey.  As a collection of tracks from this era it is one of the best around, with John Martyn, David Bowie and Nick Drake nestling nicely alongside Peter Bellamy, Shealagh McDonald and Dr Strangely Strange.

Among the rarities that will excite fans of this period is the haunting 1971  track Brother John by Bread, Love and Dreams, which features Pentangle’s Danny Thompson on bass. Diana (1971) by Comus, who featured in our Top ten acts of the golden age of folk feature , is another superb edition and sounds more like Souxsie and the Banshees;  showing how folk music has the power to constantly challenge.

John Martyn’s She Moves Through the Fair, which features as a bonus track on London Conversation provides a fine end to the first disc and shows the power of the acoustic guitar to shape folk music.

Disc two has more of a focus on the electrification of folk over this period, with the ridiculously earnest Richard Thompson piece Roll over Vaughn Williams from 1972’s Henry the Human Fly, starting it off. While the lack of any tracks from Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief is a notable omission, at least this ground breaking act is covered with A Sailor’s Life, from 1969’s Unhalfbricking.  It’s a less obvious choice, but still shows the traditional folk influence that drove the act, as well as Sandy Denny’s role as one of folk music’s greatest ever divas. David Bowie’s rock take on folk on Black Country Rock is a welcome reminder of his roots in the folk scene, even if it is among his worst ever tracks.

Despite this being a fine collection it falls down a little as a companion to the book. Missing are the classical music of the first half of the 20th century and  later ‘folk’ artists Young focuses on, such as Talk Talk and David Sylvian. To include such tracks would have been more in the spirit of the book and created a far more challenging collection.  It’s a minor gripe though as it more than succeeds as a collection from the golden age of UK folk music and opening track, Peter Bellamy’s 1970 rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s Oak, Ash and Thorn, is certainly effective in plunging the listener into the world of British folk music. Similarly Nick Drake’s Voices, a little known 1974 track from this tragic star of the UK folk scene, is a fitting end to the collection, showing how UK folk evolved during the 1960s and 1970s but was still grounded by the traditions of  word of mouth story telling.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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Folk Legend Bert Jansch Dies At 67

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Folk Legend Bert Jansch Dies At 67

Posted on 05 October 2011 by Joe

Bert Jansch, one of Britain’s most influential guitarists, has passed away at the age of 67.

Bert, who was a founding member of the folk rock group Pentangle and one of the  brightest stars of the 1960s folk scene, lost his battle with cancer this week.

Bert Jansch (centre) performing with Pentangle at Glastonbury 2011

Born in Glasgow he influenced musicians around the world throughout his career,  including Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and was renowned for his intricate guitar picking.

We at Neonfiller were privileged to see Bert play a number of times, as a solo musician and most recently in June at Glastonbury as part of a brief reunion tour for Pentangle. During that performance he was quieter than his other fellow Pentangle members but his guitar playing skills never wavered during this thrilling set.

He had been due to play at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh in August but as his health worsened he was forced to cancel and was hospitalised. He died at 12.30am this morning (Oct 5).

Among his accolades were two lifetime achievement awards at the BBC Folk Awards, for his solo work and as a member of Pentangle.

Despite being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 he went on to perform a two month tour of the US with Neil Young in 2010.

Here’s one of our favourite Bert Jansch clips.

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Top Ten Albums From The Golden Age of UK Folk Music

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Top Ten Albums From The Golden Age of UK Folk Music

Posted on 07 March 2011 by Joe

From the mid 1960s through to the early 1970s the UK folk music scene was transformed with a legacy that continues to influence indie and alternative artists to this day.

From America’s Midlake and Sweden’s Tallest Man on Earth to the UK’s current diverse folk scene of the likes of Tuung and The Unthanks the influences of this golden age of folk music were immense.

We thought it was about time that we paid tribute to this time and showcase some of the best albums produced by some familiar and less familiar names. We’ve drafted in folk music expert Garry Todd to compile this list for us as we present Neon Filler’s Top Ten Albums From The Golden Age of UK Folk Music.

1. Fairport Convention – Liege &Lief


Moving away from being the English Jefferson Airplane, and throwing off their predominantly American folk-psych influences, the band concocted this strange brew of ancient folk songs retooled for the psychedelic mindset. Born out of the tragic road accident which killed the original drummer, Martin Lamble, and seriously injured the rest of the band, Fairport’s fourth album is the philosopher’s stone of British folk rock. The first to fully realise an electrified British folk music.

The band’s alchemical manifesto is set out on opening song Come all ye in which Sandy Denny sets out to ‘Rouse the spirit of the Earth and move the rolling sky’. When Richard Thompson’s guitar takes flight duelling with Dave Swarbrick’s electric violin on Reynardine, it’s no mystery why this album was so influential.

2. Incredible String Band – The 5000 spirits or the layers of an onion


Out of the fertile folk scene of Scotland’s central belt, ISB were tremendously gifted musicians with a beatnik/proto hippie sensibility, who drew from a deep well of ethnic music, little heard at the time. Strong melodies augmented with keen harmonies and exotic arrangements, complement lyrics that range from whimsical conversations with clouds, to meetings with death and all points in between. They sound simultaneously ancient and modern all within the same song.

3. Roy Harper – Stormcock


Harper developed his idiosyncratic guitar style through years of itinerant wandering through Europe. On Stormcock he floats free from conventional songwriting, in a good way. His eddying fingerpicked guitar swells and rises over four long songs, bolstered with an orchestral arrangement and even Jimmy Page on one track. Often multitracking his voice into a epic chorus, Harper shifts register throughout in service of his songs. Throughout the album, Harper’s rails against religion, hypocrisy, power and it’s abuses with a sharp tongue and wit, with an occasional slide into low humour. The beautiful closing track, Me and My Woman, is where he finds some respite.

4. Bert Jansch – Rosemary Lane


Of all Jansch’s superb early albums, Rosemary Lane is the finest product of this purple patch. During a break from working with Pentangle, Jansch recorded the album at home with producer Bill Leader, as he had with his first few albums. Jansch makes these traditional songs truly his own, and the resulting ambience is intimate and immediate, as though the gentle melancholic lilt of Jansch’s hushed delivery were solely for you.

5. Shirley & Dolly Collins – Love, Death & The Lady


Dark, austere and forbidding, this beautiful, spare setting of traditional songs, is probably the peak of Shirley & Dolly Collins work. The arrangements of pipe organ and medieval instrumentation untether the mainly 19th century songs from their origins, setting them adrift in a melancholy world of their own. Shirley Collins has described herself being a conduit for the music. Her voice has an immediacy and purity, such clarity lost now, in an age of auto-tune and endless vibrato. The effect can beheartbreaking, as on Are you going to leave me?

6. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left


It is hard to appreciate now that Nick Drake’s songs were once a precious secret. His albums reportedly sold less than 5000 copies each on original release, and were not widely available until released on CD in 1989. A fine guitarist with a strong lyrical style, his quiet, breathy delivery is supported on a bed of strings, adding drama and pathos to songs like River Man. Long overshadowed by the knowledge of his suicide, his music was sweetly introspective with a gentle melancholy often undercut by sly deprecative humour, as in Man in a Shed, or Poor Boy on his next album BryterLayter.

7. John Martyn – Bless The Weather


Bless the Weather was Martyn’s fifth album and his first solo album in what would  become his classic style, playing his guitar through an echoplex. Martyn develops his blend of Jazz, Folk and Rock into a spaced out hall of mirrors on Glistening Glyndebourne. His semi-slurred delivery only thickens from this point on, giving his songs a narcotic edge, even at their most romantic.

8. Comus – First Utterance


Murder ballads are a strong component of the folk repertoire. Comus took the murder ballad into the pagan wild woods and sacrificed it.  Although mostly acoustic the arrangements have a manic energy and intensity, which leaves most extreme rock looking puny and underfed. Roger Wooten, the lead singer and main songwriter sounds demonically possessed, throwing himself into the roles of rapist, murderer and asylum inmate with glee. The cover image of a twisted pain wracked man is fully representative of the lyrics. There are lighter moments but these are brief interludes before plunging back into the darkness. Step carefully into the forest.

9. Steeleye Span – Please to see the King


Ashley Hutchings left Fairport Convention after Liege and Leif, and founded Steeleye Span as a vehicle to delve deeper into traditional song. On their second album, Martin Carthy came on board and they went electric. With Carthy and Tim Hart the band had two strong male singers, but on the majority of songs Maddy Prior took the lead. All three harmonised terrifically throughout. Without drums the rhythm is carried through the interplay of guitar and bass, with violin often taking lead instrumental voice.

10. Lal & Mike Waterson – Bright Phoebus

Half of The Watersons make an original record with almost every significant musician in the British Folk Rock scene, it just has to be good, doesn’t it? Luckily, Bright Phoebus is a fantastic record with superb guitar work from Richard Thompson and Martin Carthy. Brilliant vocal harmonies from Lal and Mike are the centrepiece of glistening arrangements. There’s an eerie quality to most of the songs, listening to The Scarecrow will genuinely give you the shivers.

Compiled and written by Garry Todd

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