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A Rare Conundrum: Bert Jansch - A rare good record
on 23 April 2012
It is perhaps surprising that I have only recently started listening to Bert Jansch's solo work. I have long been a devotee of Pentangle and John Renbourne, as well as artists such as Dylan, Fairport Convention and the like. But up until now I have never really dipped my toe into the world of Jansch. And now that I have I regret that I have spent so long without this sublime music in my life.
I recently listened to the great `Romsemary Lane', and decided to try this album next based on the highly scientific principle that I love the title and cover art. Anyone who uses one of my favourite Escher drawings as the basis for a cover is bound to get my attention. A Rare Conundrum is a traditionalish folky album, released in 1977 at the end of his tenure with the Charisma label. It is produced by Lindisfarne alumni Rod Clemens, who contributes some bass and guitar. The drummer is Pick Withers, who a year later would shoot to fame as the drummer with Dire Straits. Stylistically it is rooted in folk, but as with so many of the artists of the time Jansch uses a much wider musical palette, introducing elements of jazz, blues and a tinge of rock. There are also large elements of country to be found here with some delicious banjo work. It has moved on quite a way from the bluesier albums of his earlyier career, and the more folky material of the Rosemary Lane years, though it still retains huge elements of both. It shows an artist growing, assimilating new styles, but not changing direction or forgetting his past.
Jansch is lauded as a master technician on the guitar, and he really shows why here. Playing with a depth of skill that is breathtaking, he delivers vivid emotional imagery just with a few plucks of a guitar string. But at the same time he is singing, and the melding of voice and guitar, the balance between the two is just perfect. He delivers ballads and love songs with real grace and clarity.
This is what music should be. It enters the soul and lodges there, driving feelings and emotions and evoking real passion. I just love this record and am looking forward to hearing more from Jansch's back catalogue.