Born in 1943 and still performing internationally, Bert Jansch has always been an enigma. Giving up a passion for gardening for the guitar in 1959, his gradual relocation to London from Edinburgh during the early to mid-1960s began a process of word-of-mouth intrigue in this curious, withdrawn character that saw him rise from undisputed king of the Soho folk club scene to some considerable mainstream success with the Pentangle and an enduring influence thereafter as a player.
His first record slipped out in March 1965. His first appearance in London - an unadvertised floor spot - was precisely one week after the then similarly unknown Bob Dylan at the Troubadour in January 1963. That information alone is hard enough to find-.-what was long believed impossible was the prospect of finding any tangible glimpse of such a singular talent prior to that first, legendary album. And then it happened.
No less than 57 tracks - unknown originals, unlikely covers and unbelievable musicianship - spanning three intimate folk club performances in Glasgow between September 1962 and the summer 1964, and in remarkable sound quality given the circumstances, turned up in the possession of one Frank Coia in Cornwall. He had made the recordings as an awe-struck teenager in Glasgow, on borrowed equipment, and had remained awe-struck enough at their contents to keep them safe for 36 years.
Thirty of the best tracks have been carefully compiled and digitally enhanced to reveal not only an historical curio but a form of music and individuality of performance that, to my mind was unprecedented. Charles Mingus, Big Bill Broonzy and the very imagination of Bert Jansch himself combine breathtakingly on material that includes six previously unheard Jansch originals - not least the great 'lost' instrumental Joint Control - several songs that would later appear on his albums throughout the later 60s, and a fair number of blues/jazz interpretations that Jansch would never otherwise commit to tape.
Authorised by the man himself - who remains typically bemused by the whole affair - it has been my privilege to have been involved in this project, which includes an exhaustive sleevenote and rare photographs. I may be biased, off course, but far from being a piece of history alone, I believe we have here a wonderful listening experience from beginning to end.
by Colin Harper