Album no. 56/1001
Well well well, if it isn’t the British Bob Dylan (not really, he didn’t sound like that). Bert Jansch is the first Scottish person to appear on this list, and we are bloody excited.
Bert sold this album to Transatlantic Records for one hundred pounds, which in 2016 money is about 1800 pounds or almost three thousand Australian dollars. By the end of 1966 he had two more albums out and was hanging out with kids like Roy Harper and Paul Simon. He was also a member of Pentangle, who we might just get to in 1969.
Have you listened to this album before?
NK: Never even heard of old mate Bert, but I literally just got back from Scotland so BRING IT ON.
CL: No. Never heard of this person. Is this going to be jazz? I’m very suspicious.
NK: He was a better guitar player than Bobby Dylan, I’ll give him that. I like the instrumentals (‘Smokey River’ and ‘Finches’) a lot, and ‘Running From Home’ is unexpectedly moving, but I think the best track has to be ‘Needle of death’. I think one of Bert’s mates had a heroin issue. It’s sad.
CL: It’s not jazz! It’s folk! What a pleasant surprise and not what I expected at all! ‘Finches’ is only 51 seconds, but it’s really sweet. Oh wait, wow – ‘Needle of Death’ is AMAZINGLY GOOD. I very rarely connect with lyrics on a first listen, but this one killed me. Right in the guts.
NK: I wonder if you’ll feel the same way when we get to Neil Young.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
NK: This is pretty mellow, but some of the lyrics can get a bit heavy. Use with caution.
CL: I suppose it is a bit depressing, but it’s a real chill album. It’s literally just a guitar and a guy, so it’s the sort of music you’d put on if you want to relax. With a bit of rain outside.
Why has this album been included on the list?
NK: I don’t know anything about old mate Bert, but I can definitely hear Paul Simon and my mate Jackson C. Frank being influenced here. That’s enough to qualify it for me.
CL: If you’ve ever heard even a snippet of a Nick Drake song (we’ll be getting to Nick Drake in just 18 short weeks!) you’ve basically heard Bert Jansch. The voice is different, but Bert clearly began a trend. His style of finger-picking and interesting melodic arrangements paved the way for the future of folk music. No more just strumming along to the same old chords – this is definitely something new for the genre.
NK: I hadn’t heard Nick Drake until you pointed him out, and now there it is front and centre.
Will you be listening again?
NK: Quite possibly! I didn’t mind this. Relaxed but still containing quite a bit of emotion if you’re paying attention. Didn’t mind this at all.
CL: Yes. I already have. Old mate Bert is basically just a less depressed version of Nick Drake. Which is fine by me. (I still love you, Nick Drake). We’ll also be hearing more of Bert in his other band Pentangle. They come up in 18 weeks – the same week as Nick Drake! It’ll be a folk fiesta.