cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
Front Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"My playing is much more raw and rhythmic, John’s much more melodic and light. You put the two together, and it’s a really nice combination.” - (Bert Jansch - Uncut 2010) . . . "Bert Jansch is, in all probability, the best contemporary writer of folk songs in the English language". - (Bob Jones - Broadside Magazine Cambridge) . . . "(John Renbourn) First hailed as an acoustic guitar hero of "folk baroque" in the 60s". - (The Guardian, November 2011)

This is album retro-review number 126 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!

I was introduced to this album in the late 1960’s, and loved it when I first heard it in the late 60’s, and it has actually been toward the rear of my “crate” for many years.

It is a must listen album when it comes to the “Cream” of this Crate.

With the sad passing of Bert Jansch in 2011 and then of John Renbourn in March of 2015, this album becomes even more precious.

Bert Jansch and John Renbourn bought out the vinyl album Bert And John in 1966.

Released on the Transatlantic label, it has the code TRA 44. 

cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
Album label: Side 1 – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
Album label: Side 2 – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The label was a British label formed in 1961 as primarily a blues import label, although its working capital initially came from sales of sex education records. 

It was sold in the mid 1970’s and was renamed Logo Records. The album has a total of 12 tracks including eight tracks written jointly by Jansch and Renbourn, or as individuals.

It was re-released on vinyl in Japan in 1973, in Spain in 1978 and as a CD in the UK in 1996 and again in 2001.

 

Songs / Tracks Listing

Side 1
1. East Wind (1:25)
2. Piano Tune (1:39)
3. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (3:51)
4. Soho (3:00)
5. Tic-Tocative (1:56)
6. Orlando (1:40)

Side 2
1. Red’s Favourite (1:34)
2. No Exit (1:26)
3. Along the Way (2:04)
4. The Time Has Come (2:55)
5. Stepping Stones (2:43)
6. After the Dance (2:26)

Total time: 26:39

 

cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
Rear Cover: Track Listing = [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The story of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn is the story of two fantastic British “Folk” guitarists. Their skills were amazing in both playing and composing, and while they were brilliant apart, the synergy that resulted when they came together was a knockout.

This album truly exemplifies this.

Bert and John collaborated in recordings only once as a duo and that is this one album.

Born in Glasgow in 1943, Bert Jansch was one of the leading figures on the British folk music revival of the 1960’s.

He began performing his unique synthesis of folk, blues and jazz in the early 1960s, having hitch-hiked to London from his hometown of Edinburgh.

His iconic first album, Bert Jansch (April 1965), was played on borrowed guitars and recorded on a reel-to-reel tape deck. That album caused a sensation for its innovative guitar technique and powerful songs, and has been phenomenally influential to this day, cited by legions of guitar players (famous and otherwise) as a major inspiration.

Bert was a founding member of the great British group Pentangle, which was formed in 1967 with John Renbourn, Jaqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox.

The group split in 1973 and Jansch once again perused a solo career. On the eve of a 2009 US tour, Bert was diagnosed with lung cancer.

That news didn’t stop him from working live but sadly his life was cut very short when he died from cancer in October 2011.

Between 1965 and 2011 he recorded 24 studio albums including this one, 8 live albums, 10 singles and EP’s and played on a further 10 compilation albums.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
Bert Jansch : 1966 – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
Bert Jansch : circa 2009 – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

John Renbourn was born in London in 1944 and was surrounded by music from an early age as his mother was an accomplished pianist and his great-uncle, a cello playing priest.

John never got to know his father who perished during the second world war.

His life revolved around music, and that included his formal education which was supplemented by private tuition with maestro John Webber.

He commenced playing in the early 1960’s and for a while played R&B in a band while studying at the Kingston College of Art.

Now although the British “Folk Revival” was underway, most folk clubs were biased towards traditional, unaccompanied folk songs, and guitar players were not always welcome.

However, the Roundhouse in London had a more tolerant attitude, and there John Renbourn joined blues and gospel singer Dorris Henderson, playing backing guitar and going on to record two albums with her.

Possibly the best known London venue for contemporary folk music in the early 1960s was Les Cousins on Greek Street, Soho, which became the main meeting place for guitar players and contemporary singer-songwriters from Britain and America.

As a result of frequenting this establishment, around 1963, Renbourn teamed up with Bert Jansch, who had moved to London from Edinburgh, and together they developed an intricate duet style that became known as folk baroque. Their album Bert and John is a fine example of their playing.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
John Renbourn 1967 – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
John Renbourn circa 2009 – [CLICK to enlarge]


Renbourn went on to join Pentangle and in doing so kept a successful music relationship with Bert Jansch active. When Pentangle folded he continued a combination of a solo career mixed with stints in groups, such as “Ship Of Fools” in 1988.

He also found time to return to studying and in the mid 1980’s he earned a degree in “Composition” from Darlington College of Arts.

He was still playing up to his death.

Between 1965 and 2011 John Renbourn recorded 20 solo albums, 11 collaborative albums (including this album) and released 5 live albums and appeared on 7 compilation albums.

It isn’t easy putting this album into a neat category – certainly it is folk based but consistently it is talked about by others as having a “baroque” feel.

Now while I absolutely love this album, and it probably does have that “renaissance” music sound, there is no doubting that the interpretations and styles they drew on were successfully melded into a style that was of its time, and in fact, in my world it holds up brilliantly still today.

Folk music in general is not my usual “cup of tea”!

However, from time to time I’m sure we have all happened upon an album that catches our imagination even in a music genre we may not usually subscribe to.

This album is a classic example of such a case.

Track number 1 on side 1East Wind, is my favourite track on this album.

East Wind is the shortest track on the album but it is a classic case of quality always rules over quantity.

The duelling steel guitars are both technically excellent but it’s not just that excellence that makes the track stand out, it’s a simple case of their ability to play so beautifully together.

The credits for the composition go to them both and it is a superb way to open an album that will please on so many levels. The track has a real flamenco feel and that initial sound cleverly, and gently, mutates into something much more with its blisteringly fast chord changes.

It is not going overboard to describe this piece of music as “honey” to the ears.

East Wind

 

Track number 3 is Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.

Despite their obvious predilection for all things folk, this is an out and out blues track.

For the guitarists reading this, one of the wonderful things about this arrangement is that it is played in DADGAD tuning which is not unusual for “Celtic music” but, this is blues based.

At the same time it also has elements of both jazz and flat picking, which so makes the tuning unusual as the open string tuning doesn’t lend itself easily to flat picking.


 

A Charlie Mingus composition. Yet it is been beautifully interpreted by these two and it also reminds us of the passion that John Renbourn had for blues based music.

It also demonstrates how he shaped the jazz piece to fit that “blues style” while not loosing the critical elements of the jazz feel.

Once again this track demonstrates that these two guys not only were technically superior to most other acoustic players of the day, they had an inherent feel for the music that allowed them to shape the pieces into what are beautiful examples of music.

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

 

Track number 5 is Tic Tocative.

It only missed out being the shortest track by 2 seconds. It’s a piece of music that is most aptly is described as “funky”.

It is another Jansch/Renbourn composition and really sounds like it may have resulted from one of the many, many jams that these two guys were well known for.

It has a loose feeling, yet there is not a note out of place, nor a note that is surplus to requirements. The short flicking/rolling chords really make a statement and declares that Renbourn is just sitting and playing with ease.

This is all happening while Jansch sets the tone of the piece, yet throughout the piece he demonstrates his trademark guitar style in such a way that makes the two playing together, as the classic “hand in glove” familiarity.

Tic Tocative

 

I turned the album over, having realised that I had already played three tracks from side 1, yet I needed to also consider that side 2 would be no slouch!

I could not go past track four on side 2. The Time Has Come.

This is the longest track on the album coming in at 2 minutes 58 seconds. This track would later be recorded by Pentangle, but there is a beautiful, if not “peaceful”, feel about this version and it is a pure example of the British folk music of the period.

Written by Anne Briggs, it is only one of two tracks on the album with lyrics, the other being Soho.

It could be argued that the vocals actually get in the way of the music and for a while I supported that line of thinking.

But the more I listened to the track, the more I enjoyed the fact that the story in the music, was being nicely supplemented by words, which didn’t get into the way.

While he doesn’t have a “knock-out” voice, Bert Jansch’s voice suits the track well.

Oh, my babe, don’t you know
The time has come for me to go.
Tomorrow comes like yesterday
The autumn fades our love away.

Oh, my babe, don’t you know
The time has come for me to go.
Don’t you think of me no more?
I’m going to some foreign shore.

When I’m there maybe I’ll find
Some other young man pleasing to my mind.
Oh, my babe, why don’t you know
The time has come for me to go.
Tomorrow comes like yesterday
The autumn fades our love away.

The Time Has Come

 

Bert Jansch and John Renbourn provide an entire album which shows what happens when two great steel-guitar players duel each other through a dozen tracks.  They have created an amazing musical landscape in this album.

In many ways their guitar duelling, albeit acoustic, is equally on par of the electric duelling that came fashionable not long after, as exemplified by Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

The great thing about the album is that there is not a dud track on it. The music covers a variety of styles and really does showcase the brilliance of both men.

cream of the crate: album review # 126 – bert jansch and john renbourn: bert and john
Bert & John



When Bert Jansch passed away in October of 2011, it is a small measure of how others, his peers, saw him when Neil Young wrote, With deep regret, Pegi and I acknowledge the passing of Bert Jansch. Pegi and I were lucky to play with him on all of our shows for the last couple of years.

He is a hero of mine, and one of my greatest influences. Bert was one of the all time great acoustic guitarists and singer-songwriters. Our sincerest sympathies to his soulmate, Loren. We love you, Bert.”

Sadly, John Renbourn passed very recently, on Thursday 26th March 2015.

When he failed to appear at a concert, police visited his home in Hawick in the Scottish Borders and found his body. It is believed he died of a heart attack.

Tributes began to pour in as this retro-review was initially being prepared back in 2015 – with the influential Folk Radio UK declaring – “He left an enduring legacy (read our tribute here) which continues to influence many folk artists today.”

The CD Bert And John, can be purchased for around Au$28.00 including postage.

Sites such as Discogs have the original vinyl LP for between $45 and $120.00 – so if you have a copy, keep it the original release is hard to find.

 


VIDEOS:

Sadly, there is live footage on Youtube featuring both Bert and John from those early days. I did come across a 10minute documentary with VERY rare footage of them.

 

Bells (1967)

 

Bert Jansch & John Renbourn (Rare footage from 1966)


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:

#101:  Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (Live)

#102:  Les Paul and Mary Ford – The World Is waiting For The Sunrise

#103:  Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

#104:  Los Fronterizos – Misa Creole

#105:  Bobby Bright – Child Of Rock And Roll

#106:  The  Nylons – One Size Fits All

#107:  Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come [Soundtrack from the film]

#108:  Paul Simon – Graceland

#109.  The Ventures – The Very Best Of

#110.  The Pardoners – Indulgences

#111.  Atlantic R&B: Volumes 1 – 3 [1947 to 1957] 

#112.  Atlantic R&B Volumes 4 & 5 [1957 – 1965]

#113.  Roots of Rock: Vol.12 – Union Avenue Breakdown

#114.  David Fanshawe – African Sanctus

#115.  A Reefer Derci – Various Artists

#116.  Dr. John – Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch

#117.  The Walker Brothers – The Walker Brothers

#118.  Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel

#119.  Curved Air – Airconditioning

#120.  The Delltones – The Best of The Delltones

#121.  Hound Dog Taylor – Hound Dog Taylor and The Houserockers

#122.  Bessie Smith – Queen of The Blues

#123.  The Shadows – The Shadows Greatest Hits

#124.  Gil Scott Heron – Reflections

#125.  The Dingoes – Five Times The Sun