January ’69 – A Bert Jansch Folk & Blues Classic

Bert Jansch – Birthday Blues

In the late 1960’s and early ’70’s there was seemingly an alternate universe of musicians and bands happening right alongside the mega groups, and in some cases (cough Led Zeppelin cough) they were a serious influence, even providing the only female vocal ever heard on a song by that parenthetical band. This was a British world of mostly acoustic “folk revival” performers including Davey Graham, Nick Drake, Al Stewart, the Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and the duo and solo acts within those groups (John Renbourn, Sandy Denny, and Richard Thompson, to name a few). There were, of course, many more. One of them was Renbourn’s duo counterpart and fellow member of the Pentangle, Scotsman Bert Jansch. He released his fifth solo album, Birthday Blues, 50 years ago this month.

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The Pentangle had just released its pinnacle album Basket of Light, and Birthday Blues is basically a Pentangle album without singer Jacqui McShee or fellow guitarist Renbourn (he’s backed by the band’s rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox on this release). It is considered Jansch’s most “pop” record, but it’s firmly in the folk and blues genre. It’s alternatively playful and moody, as the album’s title suggests. Jansch was a dynamic guitarist with a distinctive singing voice – a good combination – so if you like this style of music, there’s a lot to enjoy on this release. Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell is a beautiful instrumental inspired by his wife, who also designed the album cover. Poison is a haunting track on the folk rock side of things with heavier drums and an eerie guitar and harmonica that give a feeling of foreboding. A Woman Like You is another one in that vein.

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Trying to recall what inspired me to learn about Bert Jansch, it was probably a Roots of Led Zeppelin sampler CD that came attached to an issue of MOJO Magazine or one like it around 2003 with Jansch’s 1966 take on the traditional Blackwater Side. I purchased a Best of Bert Jansch CD and was on my way. It didn’t occur to me at the time to even bother looking into whether or not he still performed live. Even if he did, it seemed highly unlikely he would pass through Texas. Then one day in 2010 I read he was going to perform at the local symphony hall – opening for and performing with Neil Young! Then I looked at the ticket prices.  Then I looked at my bank account. Wasn’t happening. A little over a year later Jansch died of lung cancer. Missing that show is a big music regret of mine.

Tracklist

Side A:

  1. Come Sing Me a Happy Song to Prove We Can All Get Along the Lumpy, Bumpy, Long & Dusty Road
  2. The Bright New Year
  3. Tree Song
  4. Poison
  5. Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell
  6. I’ve Got a Woman

Side B:

  1. A Woman Like You
  2. I Am Lonely
  3. Promised Land
  4. Birthday Blues
  5. Wishing Well
  6. Blues

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_Blues_(album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Jansch

https://www.allmusic.com/album/birthday-blues-mw0000205948

Bert Jansch – Birthday Blues LP

 

 

January ’69 – Donovan the Hit Maker

Donovan – Donovan’s Greatest Hits

Today’s entry is a first for Introgroove:  a greatest hits album. Thinking ahead, it probably won’t be the last such release I give a nod to. To this day, if there’s an artist or band I’m unfamiliar with but feel I “should” know about them, a compilation is usually my first stop if one exists. Some hits records take on lives of their own. An obvious example is the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), the biggest selling album in US history. Elton’s Greatest Hits as well as Simon and Garfunkel’s were mainstays in my home growing up, even though the albums those songs were culled from were always in heavy rotation.

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In my music world, other such compilations which triggered my instant interest in further exploration include Marley’s Legend, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (Vol. 1 was out of stock that day in the mid-1980’s when I decided to take the plunge), James Taylor’s Greatest Hits, Cat Stevens’ Greatest HitsThe Essential Leonard Cohen, Fairport Convention’s 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection, Neil Young’s Decade, and others. As I write this, The Best of Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet is on order. Some compilations are really all I “need” in my collection by some artists. Jim Croce’s Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits is one example. Another is Donovan’s Greatest Hits, released this month 50 years ago. It’s been in my collection since I first listened to a college roommate’s copy 30 years ago, hearing tracks other than Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow for the first time.

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Donovan has loomed throughout my first year’s worth of posts, and for good reason. He may not have been as big as Dylan or the Beatles, but he was seemingly always around the scene and on camera at just the right times with just the right people, and releasing really good tunes along the way. I’m sure there were contemporary or perhaps even earlier greatest hits releases by 1960’s artists, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any others besides the Byrds and the Beach Boys. (There’s a trivia/discussion topic for you: list some others that I’m forgetting.) The crème de la crème for me here includes Sunshine Superman, Hurdy Gurdy Man, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, Colours, and Season of the Witch. I always thought There is a Mountain was kind of goofy at best, but gained a slightly better appreciation for it after realizing what I was hearing on the Allman Brothers’ Mountain Jam.

One of my favorites didn’t make it into the above playlist, but is on the album:

Tracklist (original listing differs from CD reissue linked above)

Side One:

  1. Epistle to Dippy
  2. Sunshine Superman
  3. There is a Mountain
  4. Jennifer Juniper
  5. Wear Your Love Like Heaven
  6. Season of the Witch

Side Two:

  1. Mellow Yellow
  2. Colours
  3. Hurdy Gurdy Man
  4. Catch the Wind
  5. Leléna

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donovan%27s_Greatest_Hits

 

November 1 – Sophomore Success for the Pentangle

The Pentangle – Sweet Child

Continuing a busy day of significant 1968 album releases, British folk rock group the Pentangle released their second album of the year and second overall on this date fifty years ago, and on it they proved they were no one-album wonder.  Sweet Child is a double album; half of it was recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in June of ’68, the other half in the studio.

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L-R:  John Renbourn, Danny Thompson (standing), Terry Cox, Jacqui McShee, Bert Jansch

In addition to the folk and rock element, the Pentangle added experimental jazz and blues to their repertoire – something which set them apart from contemporaries Fairport Convention.  To illustrate how prolific they were at the time, the live half of the album on the original release contains only one song from their debut earlier in the year, with the rest of it and the second disc being completely new material.  Its tracks’ origins run the gamut, from traditional songs, to jazz and blues from the likes of Charles Mingus and Furry Lewis, to originals by the group.  The album jacket was designed by Peter Blake, of Sgt. Pepper fame.

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In his AllMusic review, Matthew Greenwald calls Sweet Child “an awesome and delightful collection, and probably their finest hour.”  It’s also an hour for which I’ve arrived quite late.  When it comes to British folk rock groups, I’ve always favored Fairport Convention while giving short shrift to the Pentangle.  My only explanation is that I prefer Sandy Denny’s vocals to Jacqui McShee’s.

But I’m acquiring a taste for her singing, and there’s so much more to this group anyway with dual virtuoso guitarists John Renbourn and Bert Jansch (not to mention the latter’s vocals), as well as Danny Thompson’s jazz-infused stand up bass.  I’ve been enjoying solo Renbourn and Jansch for a while now, so it’s a no-brainer.  I’m finally waking up to this amazing group.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Market Song
  2. No More My Lord
  3. Turn Your Money Green
  4. Haitian Fight Song
  5. A Woman Like You
  6. Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat

Side Two:

  1. Three Dances:  a) Brentzel Gay b) La Rotta c) The Earl of Salisbury
  2. Watch the Stars
  3. So Early in the Spring
  4. No Exit
  5. The Time Has Come
  6. Bruton Town

Side Three:

  1. Sweet Child
  2. I Loved a Lass
  3. Three-Part Thing
  4. Sovay
  5. In Time

Side Four:

  1. In Your Mind
  2. I’ve Got a Feeling
  3. The Trees They Do Grow High
  4. Moon Dog
  5. Hole in My Coal

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Child

https://www.popmatters.com/pentangle-sweet-child-turns-50-2601840684.html

https://www.allmusic.com/album/sweet-child-mw0000206628