Bert Jansch – Jack Orion (1966)

LPFrontCover1Jack Orion is the third album by Scottish folk musician Bert Jansch, released in 1966. It contains a number of traditional songs, including the epic “Jack Orion”: a ten-minute adaptation of the Child ballad “Glasgerion” which tells of a court fiddler’s attempt to seduce a countess and his servant’s treachery in successfully impersonating him. A number of songs are performed with friend and fellow guitarist John Renbourn, who would later join him in the group Pentangle. “The Waggoner’s Lad” has Jansch unusually playing the banjo with Renbourn supplying the guitar part. (by wikipedia)

Jack Orion, Bert Jansch’s third album, may have surprised some fans upon its 1966 release, as it features no original compositions by Jansch. While nearly all of the eight tracks (four of which include guitarist John Renbourn) are interpretations of traditional folk songs, Jansch’s experimental approach breathes new life into this repertoire through his exploratory use of open tunings and passionate, gritty vocals.

According to Melody Maker, “his interpretations illuminate the songs from a completely new angle. As sung by him, with brilliant accompaniments, the brutal world that created the old ballads doesn’t seem so very far off.”


The ten-minute title song foreshadows the future through the past: with his sublime retelling of this dark tale of desire and revenge, Jansch embarks on a musical trajectory he would further develop with his group Pentangle. In “Black Water Slide,” a haunting ballad he first heard from Anne Briggs, Jansch plants the seeds for future versions by Led Zeppelin and Sandy Denny. Jack Orion’s unique combination of medieval themes and progressive arrangements would pave the way for the next wave of the British folk revival and beyond. (by


US frontcover

Bert Jansch (guitar, vocals, banjo)
John Renbourn (guitar on 01, 03., 06. + 08.)

01. The Waggoner’s Lad (Traditional 3.23
02. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (McColl) 1.41
03. Jack Orion (Traditional) 9.46
04. The Gardener (Traditional) 1.43
5. “Nottamun Town” traditional 4:30
6. “Henry Martin” traditional 3:17
7. “Blackwaterside” traditional 3:49
8. “Pretty Polly” traditional 4:07




Bert Jansch & Martin Jenkins – Avocet (1979)

FrontCover1n observance of Bert Jansch’s passing, I think it’s fitting to feature what’s probably my favorite Bert Jansch album, 1979’s Avocet.  Though Bert had already flirted with pure instrumentals on his solo albums, as far as I know Avocet is his only all-instrumental album.  While it may not get the attention Bert’s earlier solo records generated, I think it’s a fine showcase for Bert’s abilities as a guitarist as well as a composer, and a sort of detour I always wish he would have pursued further on other albums.

The lengthy title track occupies the first side of the album and is thus its centerpiece.  It’s easy to realize right away that this is what music critics love to call a “pastoral” album (I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the words “very British” either).  The focus, of course, is on Jansch’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar, supported by all-around double bass badass Danny Thompson and English folk journeyman Martin Jenkins on violin, flute, mandolin and mandocello (don’t get to hear that one very often), who often carries the songs’ melodic burden.  Jansch’s playing is typically beautiful, seamlessly superimposing arpeggios, single-note lines and multi-string leads on top of his characteristic Travis picking.  I’m always struck by how understated yet impressive Jansch’s playing is when viewed close-up; it doesn’t sound like he’s showing off, but the amount of string bending, pattern-changing and fluid stylistic variation is constant and awesome in its scope.  “Avocet” meanders gently through its many parts, providing plenty of melody to anchor the musicianship–though it’s not the most focused extended instrumental, it manages to weave a recurring melody across major/minor subsections that span folk, jazz and more of a renaissance flavor before gently coming to rest with Jansch’s uniquely mellow-yet-somehow-violent plucking.

InTheStudioIn the studio

Call me a rogue, but the album’s second side sounds even better to my ears–the shorter song lengths seem to lend themselves to more distinctive structures.  “Lapwing” transcends Jansch’s rudimentary piano technique to deliver a pensive minor melody, while “Bittern” introduces a hypnotic, swaying waltz melody and showcases Thompson’s righteous bass skills (I can’t decide if he’s simply an awesome bassist, or it’s just that he’s miked hotter than most, or [more likely] both).  Things get jazzy on the darker “Kingfisher,” which features some of the album’s more surprising chord changes.  The 5/4 time of “Osprey” and the lush lyricism and guitar/mandolin doubling “Kittewake” close the album at its most melodic, proving that, though the title and mood of the disc connote nature documentary background music, there’s more than enough substance here to justify close listening.  After reacquainting my ears with these songs, I think Avocet is a fitting representation of Bert Jansch the musician–unassuming and humble, yet full of complex and effortless beauty–you just have to take the time to pay attention. (by Elliott G. Knapp)

Recorded in February 1978 at Sweet Silence Studios, Copenhagen, Denmark

(Therefore I use the original cover from the danish record company and not the frontcover of Charisma Records, UK)

Bert Jansch (guitar, piano)
Martin Jenkins (cello mandoline, violin, flute)
Danny Thompson (bass)


01. Avocet (Jansch) 17.59
02. Lapwing (Jansch) 1.35
03. Bittern (Jansch) 7.49
04. Kingfisher (Jansch) 3.42
05. Osprey (Jenkins) 3.15
06. Kittiwake (Jansch) 2.49


CharismaFrontCoverCharisma frontcover