Bert Jansch: Reissues

The folk king’s years in Pentangle’s shadow.

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Bert Jansch was the most inward of artists, his often hunched and shrinking presence live in inverse proportion to his towering reputation on acoustic guitar.

Still, 1967 found him being pushed in an optimistically pop direction by his label, disappointed by the falling off from his initial impact with Bert Jansch and It Don’t Bother Me (both 1965).

Nicola (610) accordingly offers such unlikely moments as Little Sweet Sunshine’s Carnaby Street strut, and the Penny Lane brass contradicting Woe Is Love My Dear’s pensiveness. The Summer Of Love sound couldn’t be carried into the charts by Jansch’s circumspect folk voice, but it’s a happy curio.

1969’s Birthday Blues (710), buried by his folk-rock breakthrough that year with Pentangle, is a relaxed recital of his strengths. Tree Song is a series of sensual, pastoral metaphors for love, and his voice is recessed at the back of the room while Pentangle drummer Terry Cox leads A Woman Like You’s crunching attack.

1971’s Rosemary Lane (810) is quietly superb. From his guitar’s gentle, steely weave of regret at a serving girl’s seduction on the title track to the cinematic hallucinations of Nobody’s Bar, Jansch’s brilliance shines.