Bert Jansch – Bert Jansch (1964)

Bert Jansch is the debut album by Scottish folk musician Bert Jansch. The album was recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder at engineer Bill Leader’s house and sold to Transatlantic Records for £100. Transatlantic released the album, which went on to sell 150,000 copies. It was voted number 649 in the third edition of Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000)

The record includes Jansch’s best-known tune – “Needle of Death”, which was inspired by the death of his friend, folk singer Buck Polly

Track Listing:

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Strolling Down the Highway” 3:06
2. “Smokey River” (Instrumental) 2:56
3. “Oh How Your Love Is Strong” 3:40
4. “I Have No Time” 3:09
5. “Finches” (Instrumental) 0:51
6. “Veronica” (Instrumental) 1:32
7. “Needle of Death” 3:20
8. “Do You Hear Me Now?” 2:06
9. “Rambling’s Gonna Be the Death of Me” 3:18
10. “Alice’s Wonderland” (Instrumental; inspired by Charles Mingus) 1:46
11. “Running From Home” 2:24
12. “Courting Blues” 4:02
13. “Casbah” (Instrumental) 2:10
14. “Dreams of Love” 1:44
15. “Angie” (Instrumental) Davey Graham 3:15

Review: Recorded with a portable tape player on a borrowed guitar in the kitchen of his London flat, the impact of Bert Jansch’s debut has been somewhat blunted by time, but it was a vastly influential work. His masterful acoustic picking, which blended elements of traditional British folk, blues, and jazz, inspired not just other folk players, but rockers who frequently used acoustic guitars. Specifically, Jimmy Page and Neil Young have gone on record as noting their heavy debts to Jansch’s early material. He was also a talented songwriter, and all but one of the 15 tracks on his debut was an original composition (the set closes with his version of the instrumental “Angi,” originally performed by fellow British folk guitarist Davy Graham, and popularized by Paul Simon). The artist sounds quite close to early Donovan with his Scottish inflections, though he is darker and less pop-oriented; indeed, Donovan recorded a couple of early Jansch tunes, and wrote a couple of songs directly inspired by the artist (“Bert’s Blues” and “House of Jansch”). Jansch reflects a rambling, beatnik sort of lifestyle with his compositions on this album, which includes one of his most famous tunes, the somber “Needle of Death” (about the heroin-induced death of one of his friends). — Richie Unterberger

Schill Score: 6.25/10

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