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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for anyone who enjoys the music of Bert Jansch, 21 Sep 2001
By A Customer
Anyone who was witness to the British folk scene of the 60s and 70s will find this a fascinating book and a very enjoyable read. Anyone younger who loves the guitar as an instrument will be interested to read about the life of the almost mystical singer, songwriter and musician who was such an important influence on many more recent performers like Bernard Butler and Jonny Marr. The book is excellently researched and is clearly a labour of love which should inspire you to go out and listen to some of Bert's wonderful music.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended for fans of the sixties "folk-boom", 11 Aug 2004
By 
RiffRaff (Durban, South Africa) - See all my reviews
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The previous review is so comprehensive that I won't repeat the content of the book, but I wanted to confirm the pleasure of reading a well written book about an underrated and underexposed artist. I had not appreciated the extent of his influence both on peers in the "folk-boom" and on thousands of steel-strung acoustic guitar players since. If like me you are a fan of acoustic music and the sixties musicians you will find yourself digging out old albums from Paul Simon, Al Stewart, Donovan, Martin Carthy, Pentangle and Bert himself to experience his influence in a new light!
The book is full of fascinating cross-references to the other artists of the time, and is constantly engaging. Highly recommended.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The only disappointment...., 27 Nov 2006
This review is from: Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival (Paperback)
This is a fine book that uncovers a rich history of the folk revival and much more. Great anecdotes and tales are recounted. The influence of the Communist Party is dealt with well although this could have been analysed in greater detail. The CP really had quite a reactionary position in relation to music at the time. Folk was good because it was represented horny handed sons of toil, the new developments in jazz and rock'n'roll, mod culture etc were viewed with deep suspicion. In certain cities the CP had enough influence to be able to mobilise significant numbers and surely one of the organisation's many low points on the artistic front was the encouragement of the barracking of Bob Dylan's 1966 electric tour. Harper charts their declining influence as the young turks of the acoustic revival eschewed categorization, embracing jazz, blues, improvisation and 'world' music. Davy Graham, Robin Williamson, John Renbourn and Jansch were not interested in having their searching creativity confined by sterile cardboard cutout dogma.

I've always been puzzled by the lack of the widespread appreciation of John Renbourn. I saw them both within weeks of each other at the East Dulwich Tavern in South East London in about 2000. Renbourn was astonishing - easily Bert's equal and as the book acknowledges the superior technician. I think Mojo did a 50 greatest guitarists a few years ago and Renbourn didn't even figure whilst Jansch was number 9 or thereabouts. Maybe his life is not so romantic - a bit like John Martyn struggling to be recognised to the same extent as Nick Drake.

The only disappointment was the lack of detailed track-by-track analysis of his key albums - in a book of such length surely this is justified given that ultimately its the music that the man's reputation stands or falls on. For instance there is no mention of Nottamun Town from the Jack Orion album - a stunning, terrifying, vocal performance from a man whose voice is not always easy to love. A song which later appeared on Fairport Convention's second album and so signposted the folk/folk revolution and was in all probability first encountered through Jansch's version.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling Story, 19 Nov 2006
By 
G. COOPER "singer and guitarist" (Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival (Paperback)
Anyone with an interest in the UK folk/acoustic scene in the 60s and later years should read this book. Whilst its main focus is quite rightly on Bert Jansch, the book also contains a wealth of information and anecdote on others involved in the music of the time: talents as diverse as Donovan and Neil Young, as well or little known as Jimmy Page and Hamish Imlach, as firmly established as John Renbourn and Ralph McTell. Colin Harper traces Bert's story from his beginnings in Edinburgh (where he learned everything his guitar teachers knew in six weeks) to his meteoric rise to solo fame in the underground folk and blues scene which came to thrive in the basement clubs of Soho and a thousand pubs and colleges across the land. There is a good outline of his meetings with John Renbourn and the other musicians with whom the ultra-hip duo of 'Bert & John'joined to form The Pentangle. Harper narrates in some detail the story of Pentangle in its heyday and subsequent revivals and of Bert's solo career in the aftermath of that band. The author does not gloss over the difficulties: Bert's problems with alcohol and its effects upon his health and career, and his complex personal life are covered but only insofar as they impinge upon the music. The book ends with Bert beginning the renaissance which started in 1995 and continues to the present time, and the apparent peace and security brought about by his marriage to Loren Auerbach. Harper writes clearly and perceptively, with a guitarist's understanding of the complexities of Jansch's music and a true devotee's grasp of the man's significance. I bought a first edition of this when it was published and have read it several times since: it's absolutely essential reading for fans of Bert Jansch and of the 60s folk and blues scene.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling performer, 8 Oct 2003
By 
Penguin Egg (London, England) - See all my reviews
If you are into the British folk and blues scene of the early 60s, then this is the book for you. It vividly describes the burgeoning Edinburgh folk scene of the Scottish revival. It was here where Jansch developed his unique guitar style, drawing heavily upon such blues stylists as Big Bill Broonzy and Brownie McGee. London had its own burgeoning folk scene, dominated by larger than life personalities like Ewan McColl, A.L.Loyd, Dominic Behan, and Davy Graham, who was furrowing a similar furrow to Jansch. Jansch drifted down to London where he met the English folk singer, Annie Briggs. They struck up a close relationship. He learnt a large part of his repertoire from her, to which he would apply his own blues oriented stylistic approach. This would bloom with his third album, "Jack Orion", where he approached traditional English folk songs as if he were a blues artist: extending phrases and slurring them. For instance, "The Gardener" is sung in a wordless vocal similar to Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was The Night-Cold Was The Ground." The title track is a hypnotic and spellbinding 9 minutes long. There had been nothing like this in folk music before. With this album, he extended and fully realised the folk-boroque style, which drew upon folk, blues, and jazz, and was pioneered by Davy Graham with his album, "Folk, Blues and Beyond."
Jansch was not only a unique and masterly guitarist and singer, but an excellent songwriter. Steering clear of politics, to the disgust of McColl, he honed in on the personal. He celebrated personal independence with "Strolling Down The Highway" and "Rambling's Going To Be The Death Of Me." He wrote incredibly moving love songs such as "A Dream, A Dream, A Dream" and "Oh How Your Love Is Strong." His anti-drug song, "Needle of Death", was greatly admired by Neil Young, and was to influence Young's own collection of anti-drug songs, "Tonight's the Night."
Jansch met up with John Renbourne and found someone who was not only on the same musical wavelength but who could match him for ability. They recorded "Bert & John" together, a beautiful album of guitar duets, and then they went on to form Pentangle, which had Bert and John on guitars, backed by a jazz rhythm section, and fronted by a traditional English folk singer. It was here that they hit the big time, touring the world and raking in the money.
Jansch is a private man, permanently scruffy and reserved, seemingly unconcerned with the trappings of stardom. However, Colin Harper has successfully brought this man to life, describing Jansch's weakness for alcohol, his failed marriages, and his various friendships, the most important of which seem to be Annie Briggs and John Renbourne. The best part of the book is the first half where he describes Jansch's developing talent and the misic scene in which he developed it. The latter of part of the book is not so interesting because Jansch is himself less interesting, no longer pioneering, and living off his past reputation.
If you love Jansch then you will want to read this book. If you love the British folk and blues revival, then you will also want to read it, because the period and the characters that dominated it are brought vividly to life. Colin Harper deserves credit for that.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You didn't have to there (for a change) ..., 23 Feb 2007
Who needs a Tardis when you've got a writer who can so engagingly evoke a sense of time and place as Colin Harper does London at the birth of folk rock? Harper's lack of personal experience of these times is no barrier to his capturing the essence of the capital: for this reader, it was a thrill to be taken back to the clubs, the singers and songs, the beer and smoke, back to Soho, guided through the fog by a writer yet to be born. Dazzling Stranger is not simply for music lovers but for anyone interested in British social history. There was a lovely little b&w film documentary about Jansch shot at the time of first publication including interviews and performances by some of the artists in this book. They screened it at about 3-00am on British TV. Surely time to see this aired again? An entertaining 'tribute' album called People On The Highway, rounding the gang up all over again to cover their favourite Jansch creations, is still available. Book, film, album: not bad for a cult folkie you might say, but then this is Jansch.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended - will have you relooking old albums..., 7 Mar 2007
By 
RiffRaff (Durban, South Africa) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival (Paperback)
Previous reviews are comprehensive so I won't repeat the content of the book, but I wanted to confirm the pleasure of reading a well written book about an underrated and underexposed artist. I had not appreciated the extent of his influence both on peers in the "folk-boom" and on thousands of steel-strung acoustic guitar players since. If, like me, you are a fan of acoustic music and the sixties musicians you will find yourself digging out old albums from Paul Simon, Al Stewart, Donovan, Martin Carthy, Pentangle and Bert himself to experience his influence in a new light!

The book is full of fascinating cross-references to the other artists of the time, and is constantly engaging. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'd forgotten about them! and him!, 24 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival (Paperback)
This is a pretty good read by any standards, but if you're into finding out about how things got to be the way they are
then it's even better. All sorts of characters here, some of them are well known now,most of the are not but they're all
interesting. This is about Mr.Jansch of course but there's so much more to the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars illuminating: bert in context, 11 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival (Paperback)
As a long-time admirer, I came away with a deeper appreciation of just how remarkable his style was and how influential he would prove to be. Colin Harper has taken the opportunity of using much of the first half of the book to present an interesting history of the underground folk and blues scene in Scotland and London in the '60s, which seems by way of compensation for the fact that the figure of Bert remains elusive, even after this comprehensive bio (no criticism of the author: he is always thorough; it's the nature of the subject, I reckon). Though I agree with Chris Glenn that discussion of his albums is rather thrown away in comparison to the analysis of socio-historical background.

You *must* listen to the "Young Man Blues" bootlegs from the early days as a companion to the book. In context, they now seem little short of genius. Here's a product link: do I get commission?
Young Man Blues: Live in Glasgow
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jansch book review, 2 Dec 2009
By 
Mr. Rodger Jenkinson (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival (Paperback)
I first saw Jansch at Les Cousins (maybe 1965) and later in Cambridge. I had friends in the "folk scene" at the time (Picadilly Line and Edwards Hand). This book tells you all you need to Know about Jansch. Excellent and enjoyable.
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