13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Neil Young once said that Bert Jansch did for the acoustic guitar in the 1960s what Jimi Hendrix did for the electric guitar, and you can take that statement at face value or you can listen to "The Best of Bert Jansch" and decide for yourself. Chances are you will recognize the first track, "Blackwaterside" as being the inspiration, so to speak, for Jimmy Page's "Black Mountain Side" on "Led Zeppelin I." Which reminds me, that as long as we are throwing around comparisons of acoustic guitar playing to electric guitar playing when Jansch joined up with John Renbourn in the group Pentacle it was the equivalent of having Page and Jeff Beck playing with the Yardbirds at the same time. You might also recognize "Angi" from an early Simon & Garfunkle album, an instrumental piece written by Davey Graham, so there are some major influences involved here even if for some reason you have not heard of Jansch until now. Just to complete the circle, "Blackwaterside" is somewhat reminiscent of Graham's "She Moved Tho' the Fair," so apparently Jansch be both a borrower and a lender.
It will not take you long to become convinced that Jansch's stark fingerpicking is first class. What will take longer is realizing that he is a decent songwriter as well. There are a few traditional pieces here, starting with "Black Water Side" and continuing with "Reynardine" and "The Gardner." But of the twenty-five tracks collected here on this 1990 release from Shanachie, sixteen are written by Jansch. The best known is "Needle of Death," inspired by the death of a friend on heroin, which is ironic given that it is an atypical Jansch song, where the singing and the lyrics overshadow the guitar playing. But when Jansch included lyrics with his songs they did tend to be rather dark in nature. Most of these songs are short, two to three minutes, in length, which explains why you end up with only 66 minutes of music with twenty-five tracks. But that is still over an hour's worth of music that establishes Jansch as an important figure in the British folk movement.
Jansch's singing seems indifferent at times, but there are a few moments where he is committed to his voice being the primary instrument, such as on "Needle of Death" and his cover of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." Still, it is the guitar playing, which sounds like it comes from the Renaissance one moment, as with "Nicola" and "Sarabanda," and another you find him playing blues guitars on tracks like "Strolling, Strolling Down the Highway" and "Come Back Baby." If you want you can just program this CD to do nothing but the instrumental tracks: 2, 7, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22 and 24, and have a really fine album right there. In fact, when you get to songs like "Poisoned" and "Promised Land" where there are suddenly drums and other instruments you are rather surprised and just want to get back to Jansch playing his guitar, whether he bothers to sing or not.
The songs are not arranged chronologically, so you are going to have tracks from his first album, recorded on a portable tape player in the kitchen of his London flat with Jansch playing a borrowed guitar, alternating with those from the end of the 1960s when he was going for a more commercial sound using studio musicians before he returned to a sound more in lines with his earlier folk recordings. But "The Best of Bert Jansch" is obligated to cover the entire spectrum of the height of his musical career. Most of his original albums are out on CDs, sometimes in combinations (e.g., his first and third albums, "Bert Jansch" and "Jack Onion"), all of which will persuade you to remember Jansch when you start ticking off the names of the greatest guitar players of your lifetime.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a good sampler if you are not already a Jansch collector. It covers most of his best known pieces and demonstrates his unique finger style on the guitar. Like most compilations the recording quality does vary a bit with most tracks only average and only a few being very good. The range of material is quite wide although nothing from recent years appears, as you would expect. I have to say though that Jansch is best live, if he appears in your area, go listen.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2012
Bought this as a Christmas present for my wife. I had never heard of Bert Jansch but have now become a fan. My wife loves it and has been a fan since she was a teenager, which just goes to show we do not know everything about our partners, as I had no idea.