BERT JANSCH: Live at the BBC


Great Britain's Earth Records has been the steward of Bert Jansch's recorded solo legacy. The label issued the three-disc Colours Are Fading Fast with Loren Auerbach (2016), Living in the Shadows and Edge of a Dream (both 2017), which packaged his albums from the 1990s and early 21st century. In 2018, two multi-disc boxes of A Man I'd Rather Be repackaged his earliest solo albums from 1965 to 1973. Earth's Bert at the BBC contains most of Jansch's performances for the BBC, both solo and in the company of John Renbourn, Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson, Johnny Marr, Bernard Butler, Ralph McTell, Mary Hopkin, Altan, and many others. Its 147 unreleased tracks include live-on-air spots, pre-recorded studio sessions, interviews, and concerts not heard since they were broadcast. A lavishly illustrated 40-page book containing rare photos, a historical essay, and reminiscences by collaborators and BBC broadcasters is included.

The discs are assembled chronologically. Disc one covers 1966 to 1977. The earliest session, from Guitar Club, offers renditions of "Whiskey Man," "Running from Home," and the instrumental "The Wheel." They're followed with cuts for John Peel's Top Gear and Night Ride programs with Pentangle and duo performances with bassist Thompson. It closes with tracks recorded at a Cambridge Folk Festival concert accompanied by Thompson, Hopkin, and violinist Martin Jenkins. Disc two covers 1980 to 1987. It includes broadcast concert tracks with Jenkins, pianist/bassist Nigel Portman Smith, drummer Stuart Langridge, and guitarist Albert Lee. There are later dates from that year as well. Highlight performances include Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," "Heartbreak Hotel," and Davy Graham's "Angie," the latter with McTell. Disc three, covering 1988 to 1994, features sessions with Lindisfarne's Rod Clements (with a killer read of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," two unbroadcast tracks including "Stealing the Night Away," and a few with Pentangle bandmates McShee and Peter Kirtley. Disc four covers 1996 to 2009. The material ranges across songs appearing on the 1995 comeback album When the Circus Comes to Town and 2000's Crimson Moon. Legacy material includes a vocal duet with McShee on "Blackwater Side," "She Moved Through the Fair" with Phil Cunningham, and "In the Bleak Midwinter" with Teddy Thompson and friends. Disc five contains the entire 60th birthday concert at St Luke's in 2003 broadcast on Radio 4 and Radio 2's 2001 Folk Awards. Discs six and seven offer the audibly stunning 2004 concert at Queen's Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland, in a trio with Butler and Marr. The final disc features rarities from 1966 to 2009 (including his final performance of "Angie"); their sound was deemed by producers as too dodgy for earlier inclusion. Given the price tag, Bert at the BBC will appeal mostly to collectors and hardcore fans. But make no mistake, this is an essential historical document in the annals of British folk and blues.

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