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Review: 'JANSCH, BERT'
'A Man I'd Rather Be (Parts 1 & 2)'   

-  Label: 'Earth Recordings'
-  Genre: 'Folk' -  Release Date: '26th January + 23rd February 2018'

Our Rating:
Having reissued the late Bert Jansch's later works, Earth Recordings now concentrate on where his solo career began.

‘A Man I’d Rather Be’ comes in two parts and contains the celebrated Scot's first eight albums lovingly re-mastered and re-packaged in two case-bound box sets.

It starts with his eponymous debut from 1965 and concludes with the baroque folk of Moonshine from 1973, described by Jansch's biographer Colin Harper as "a delightful curio in Bert's canon".

In addition, the releases include all the original liner notes from both Keith De Groot and Jansch himself, as well as further thoughts from Bill Leader (Jansch's go to producer for much of this period). There are also previously unpublished photographs by Brian Shuel.

The first part includes Bert and John (1966), the only album Jansch made with Pentangle band-mate John Renbourn. It's just 27 minutes long, but the 12 track album encapsulates, with admirable simplicity and directness, the exceptional talents of both men.

This focus on brevity contrasts with ten minute title track of Jack Orion which is still roughly half the length of the sprawling version on Pentangle's 1970 Cruel Sister album.   

In the mid 60s this esteemed Scottish folk musician was on a roll and though still an active part of Pentangle (they split up in 1973), his first four solo LPs were written, recorded and issued in just two years. They firmly established him as a unique and stubbornly independent talent in his own right.

Along with Jack Orion, part two of the collection showcases Jansch’s take on orchestrated pop (Nicola), his affection for the blues (Birthday Blues) and his respect for traditional folk (Rosemary Lane).

In this period, Danny Thompson (bass) and Terry Cox (drums) regularly feature among the musicians and there are also cameo appearances by Mary Hopkin, Toni Visconti and Dave Mattacks.

Jansch's dour, and occasionally dreary, vocal style may not be to everyone's taste but his elegant finger-picking is always a joy to hear. His playing style continues to be influential to this day.

Jimmy Page says the debut album is what got him playing acoustic guitar while Johnny Marr picks out 'It Don't Bother Me' as his seminal work. Marr says that the fact that these two albums were quickly recorded in the kitchen of a friend's house is one of the reasons why they have never dated.

It is not overstating the case to affirm that Jansch's music changed the face of British folk music and these handsomely presented collections contain all the evidence you will ever need to demonstrate precisely how and why.

Bert Jansch's official website
  author: Martin Raybould

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JANSCH, BERT - A Man I'd Rather Be (Parts 1 & 2)