Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Folk, World Music, Rock
C. H Smith | Bowling Green, Kentucky United States | 09/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've always felt that "Nicola," produced around 1966 or 67, was kind of a dud--an attempt to bring Bert to a broader audience that failed. It includes some of that period's sappy orchestral backings, Bert playing electric guitar and twelve-string, and largely mediocre material. "Jack Orion," on the other hand, is perhaps his greatest and most influential masterpiece, the album that started the British folk-rock movement. John Renbourn plays second guitar on several cuts and Jansch plays banjo on two, but mostly what one is conscious of is a good deal of energy being expended in all the right places. 'Nottamun Town,' for example, is absolutely splendid, with exactly the perfect guitar accompaniment to set off the nonsense/nightmare element of this quirky traditional piece. 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' receives a bright and lively interpretation quite unlike the later Roberta Flack version. 'The Gardener' is a tour de force in the release of energetic tension. And so on. One of the great classics of contemporary folk music, strangely paired with completely inferior material. But hey, the price is right..."
A pair of second tier Bert Jansch albums on a single CD
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/12/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As we all know all too well, albums from the 1960s were real short, which is why we are seeing so many CDs that combine two albums on a single disc. That is what you have here with a pair of Bert Jansch's albums, which is good because the only real reason to pick up "Nicola," a strange album where Jansch tries to come up with a commercial sound, is if you can pick up a much better album, which is what you get with "Jack Orion."
"Jack Orion" was Bert Jansch's third solo album, recorded in the early summer of 1966, and the first on which he played traditional folk songs rather than mostly original compositions. Jansch plays guitar, banjo and piano on the album, with John Renbourn also showing up to play guitar on half of the tracks (1, 3, 6 and 8). The two had just finished doing an album together and would, of course, eventually end up playing their dueling guitars for the group Pentangle, one of the premier British folk groups of the Sixties along with Fairport Convention (or whichever group had Sandy Denny singing lead vocals).
The title track is 9:46 long and one of those times when Jansch's vocals get in the way of enjoying his guitar playing, which is always the chief attraction on his albums. That is why the instrumental tracks, "The Waggoner's Lad" and "Henry Martin," are my favorite on this 1966 album. The most familiar songs are the instrumental take on "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," which you might need a moment to recognize (I think he improves the tune nicely), "Nottamun Town," which is where Bob Dylan got the melody for "Masters of War," and "Blackwaterside," which was transformed by Jimmy Page into "Black Mountain Side" on Led Zeppelin's debut album.
I find "Jack Orion" the album to be a second tier Jansch album, which still makes it worth listening (if you are not totally captivated by the title track it is hard to rate it otherwise). The more I listen to his work the more I start to think that I hear him doing something I have heard before, but that never turns out to be the case. But what you keep coming back to is how Jansch is one of the best guitar players you have ever heard and you will enjoy pretty much anything he plays.
Bert Jansch's 1967 album "Nicola" represents an attempt to create a more commercial sound on some, but not all of the tracks. The problem is that with Jansch you are talking one of the great acoustic guitar players in the history of the world, so when he stops playing the guitar and just sings with an orchestra accompaniment it is just plain wrong, although I must confess that "Go Your Way My Love" is one of the first tracks where I have enjoyed Jansch's singing. He was never Donovan, but at least on this one he is heading in that direction. But then there are flutes and strings playing in "Woe Is Love My Dear" and it is just too weird, especially since that was obviously the track they intended to be the hit single in violation of all of our expectations for his music.
Even though there are some of the most atypical tracks in the Jansch oeuvre on this album, such as the outright pop song "Live Depends on Love," there are some songs that play to Jansch's strengths. The title track is a guitar and flute duet, with a nice Renaissance touch. "Come Back Baby" is Jansch playing and singing the blues, as is "Weeping Willow Blues." But then "A Little Sweet Sunshine" has an electric guitar on it (as the jaws of listeners drop on cue) and proves that this album might be the most diverse mix of musical stylings he ever recorded. The lesson here is what it has always been when listening to Jansch. Just give me the man playing his guitar like he does on "Box of Love."
Of the dozen cuts on Jansch's third solo album he wrote nine of them, which means on most of these tracks you get to hear him play the guitar and mix together the blues with traditional British Isle folk music. "Nicola" would not be high on the list of Bert Jansch albums to recommend to people, and since it was combined with his 1969 album "Birthday Blues" on one CD I have to say that is the way to go with this one, because it is really too odd to pick up by itself. I would rate it at 3-and-a-half stars which makes it easier to round up for this double-album CD."