A Man I’d Rather Be – Parts I & II

We’re delighted to announce not one but two further collections in our series of Bert Jansch box-sets. Presented in our signature case bound book-backs, these 4 LP / 4 CD sets cover Bert’s most prolific era, taking us from his eponymous 1965 debut, all the way through to 1974’s ‘Moonshine’.

PART I

Where to start with a career as prolific as that of Bert Jansch? Why, the beginning of course. Bert’s first studio (though as Bill Leader rightly points out, that’s a bit of a stretch) albums capture a man whose star is truly on the rise. It also marks his most prolific period – these four LPs were written, recorded and issued in just two years; a testament to not only Bert’s abundant musicality but to a time for music that was changing – excitedly – from minute to minute. From Bert’s masterclass in elegant, melodic, one-man-and-his-guitar fingerpicking on his self-titled LP, to the beginnings of something altogether more exotic on ‘Bert and John’, these records are nothing if not a remarkable insight into the changing face of folk music at the time.

For those unfamiliar with Jansch’s oeuvre, this is a real treat; you won’t find a more comprehensively produced collection. ‘A Man I’d Rather Be’ includes all the original liner notes (from both Keith De Groot and Bert himself) as well as new ruminations from Bill Leader (who recorded much of Jansch’s nascent work) as well as never-before seen photographs by the illustrious Brian Shuel. For those in the know, this is a chance to revisit these extraordinary albums, revel in new insights and add some – perhaps more listenable LPs – to sit alongside their love-worn originals.

 

PART II

‘Part II’ takes in Jansch’s late ’60s and early ’70s output, an under-rated era, no doubt influenced by the now well-established Pentangle sound. Bandmates Danny Thompson (bass) and Terry Cox (drums) regularly feature among the musicians as well as cameo appearances by Mary Hopkin, Toni Visconti and Dave Mattacks.

Extensive new liner notes by MOJO‘s Dave Henderson complete this lovingly-curated release.

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In this period we see Jansch’s take on pop (Nicola), blues (Birthday Blues funnily enough), handsome arrangements (Rosemary Lane) and barque folk (Moonshine). All of this being conjured during a time when Pentangle was simultaneously releasing albums and constantly touring; to say that the man had a generous talent is something of an understatement.

The lush orchestration of Nicola was partly recorded by John Wood who would later engineer Nick Drake’s recordings at the same studio. The heart melting cover of Birthday Blues contains a set with some of the stalwarts of Bert’s solo and Pentangle sets, ‘Poison’ and ‘A Woman Like You’ and some of his most arresting work including ‘Come Sing a Happy Song’ which featured on the soundtrack of Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale in 2005. Rosemary Lane is considered by many to be one of Bert’s finest records, a smooth mix of traditional folk such as the title track and ‘Reynardine’, timeless original compositions like ‘Tell Me What Is True Love?’ and in ‘Alman’ and ‘Sarabanda’, examples of early music including the 16th and 17th/18th centuries, all with the sympathetic production of Bill Leader. Moonshine, Bert’s first release after Pentangle split, It was produced by fellow member Danny Thompson and the legendary Tony Visconti, who not only arranged a number of songs but also played on the record. It also features Mary Hopkin duetting with Bert on Ewan MacColl’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, Aly Bain and Charles Mingus’ drummer Dannie Richmond.