Bert Jansch (studio album) by Bert Jansch
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This album is rated in the top 2% of all albums on BestEverAlbums.com. This album has a Bayesian average rating of 78.2/100, a mean average of 77.2/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 78.6/100. The standard deviation for this album is 15.1.
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folksongs. monotone vocals
There are some nice songs on here but overall it's a little bland. The guitar playing is fantastic but the songs as a whole are lacking. It's nice folk music. The vocals are good for what Jansch has to work with. I like the passion he sings with on "Do You Hear Me Now". "Needle of Death" is probably the best song and either "Casbah" or "Angie" has my favorite guitar work.
I listened to this a couple of times, never really able to decide how I felt about it. Which I guess is a review of sorts.
ON THE ROAD
Strollin' down the highway
I'm going to get there my way
Dusk till dawn I'm walkin'
Can hear my guitar rocking? (Strolling Down The Highway)
If Neil Cassady & the gang (from Jack Kerrouc’s classic On The Road) weren’t so into jazz - if they had been born perhaps just five years years later - Jansch is the kind of music they would have been into. Music about the inherent conflict born of being human and having human desires. Between freedom & responsibility. Safety and comfort vs. excitement and adventure and the desire for something new. The freedom to explore and not be tied down while searching for the ultimate expression of who your are. In a way, this is the folk equivalent of that Southern Rock archetype that The Allmans' & Skynyrd loved to wax poetic about - The Ramblin' Man. The Renegade. The Outlaw. “Ain’t no girl going to tie me down.”
Hey girl, oh how my heart is torn
Hey girl, now that your baby's born
What shall it cost? Is my freedom lost?
What is the price of nature's own way (Oh How Your Love is Strong)
But there’s a weariness in this album. A realization that this particular path is not the easiest. There’s an internal conflict. That maybe he’s got it all wrong. That maybe he’d been better off - happier, more content, even more self-realized - if he had just stuck back home. Married that love that he knocked up back in his early twenties. Settled down & relaxed. Been a good father. Because life on the road ain’t easy. Loneliness ain’t easy.
Because restlessness is just greed in another form. It’s an impatience. An inability to surrender to the moment and just be.
Ask me why a rambler ain't got no home
Ask me why I sit and cry alone
I wish I knew
I wish I knew
If I knew, I'd know what to do (Rambling’s Going To Be the Death of Me)
But like Cassidy and the rest of the beats, Jansch probably had no other choice. And this is THE album for embracing those regrets you’ve made along the way with a kindred spirit. For accepting that a part of you never would have been satisfied with that orthodox life. The wife you no longer found attractive. The 2.5 kids and the hour commute to that cubicle 8 floors up in the sky. It’s an album that helps you embrace the randomness of life. Accepting that life doesn’t go according to expectations. For accepting the regret. For accepting that you’ve probably made your life a whole lot more difficult than it had to be because that’s part of who you are. That’s part of being human. We’re never satisfied. Never content. And that Jansch is able to capture this uniquely human quality and the conflict born of it in a folk album is staggering. And makes it one of the true great masterpieces of 60s music.
I love what I wrote about this album a few years back when I first heard it shortly after joining BEA…
Herein lies sparse, finger-picked folk songs on acoustic guitar mostly about how one's quest for personal freedom can sometimes be the very cause of our loneliness & isolation. In a sense one's quest for freedom to find the ultimate can leave you old and exhausted at the side of the road. Wearied. Jealous of all the smart folks who were satisfied with less.
Because less is almost always more. But some of us alas need to go On The Road to learn this.
Grade: A+. Do you want a kickass record collection? Of course you do! Why else would you be here, right? Well then there are two folk albums from 60s that EVERY music aficionado NEEDS. One has to be Dylan. Duh. So take your pick between Freewheelin’ and Another Side. It doesn’t really matter. They’re both Dylan at his folk peak before he plugged in. And then get THIS. Jansch’s debut. England’s true answer to Dylan (it certainly wasn’t Donovan. Donovan was something else completely.) Jansch was already rocking on just a acoustic guitar on this here album. His guitar playing lightyears beyond what most of The Village doing across the pond. And then you’ll be set. Sated. Satisfied to have two of the best folk albums of all time.
Until you’re not.
This album was apparently recorded with a portable tape player, on a borrowed guitar, in a kitchen of a London flat. Wow. The sound is yes raw, but also very clear and pristine. And the thing that sets this apart from other singer-songwriter albums of the period including every other album on this list, is the active, intense, inventive and virtuosic guitar playing. Bert just adorned these earthy blues and folk originals with intricate guitar runs and chords that just manage to fill up the whole sound despite the stripped down nature of the music and despite the alleged circumstances of the recording session.
The album starts off with a beautiful blues original "Strolling Down The Highway" and its a great way to be introduced to the main voice here and to this album. Its just a simple portrait of the style, kind of aimless, blue and searching. Throughout the album jansch plays nice earnest original songs, and a fair share of little instrumental detours which are consistently fascinating.
Songs like the opener, and the closing instrumental "Angie" with its agressive crashes and burtsts, and the stunning and bitter sadness of "Needle of Death/Do You Hear Me Now" assure this as a classic of the just a man and his guitar albums and folk.
This is a good album but it really could have done without the instrumentals as they really stop the flow of the record, making it a stuttering LP. Still, some fine songs, especially, needle of death, make this an essential acoustic guitar album, albeit inconsistent and samey.
Strollin' down the highway
I'm going to get there my way...
But the road is long
got to see my journey through
my rambling' going to be the death of me...
Herein lies sparse, finger-picked folk songs on acoustic guitar mostly about how one's quest for personal freedom can sometimes be the very cause of our loneliness & isolation. In a sense one's journey can become a curse. If you're a whiskey drinker, you've just found your newest bestest friend. This album is an excuse to drink all in itself. Includes one of the most haunting songs about drug addiction I've ever heard. Anyone who thinks Dylan was only bard that mattered in the 60s has not had this.
Herein lies sparse, finger-picked folk songs on acoustic guitar mostly about loneliness & isolation. If you're a whiskey drinker, you've just found your newest bestest friend. This album is an excuse to drink all in itself. Includes one of the most haunting songs about drug addiction I've ever heard. Anyone who thinks Dylan was only bard that mattered in the 60s has not had this.
This is a masterpiece.
Bert was a class act. Saw him playing both solo & with Pentangle. Wonderful guitarist.
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