Release Date: Aug 7, 2015
Record label: Light in the Attic Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Originally released on CD in 1996, Live At The 12 Bar, an unofficial straight-to-DAT in-concert recording became one of the cornerstones of Bert Jansch’s critical and commercial renaissance at the turn of the century. The hushed intimacy of the legendary venue on London’s Denmark Street is the perfect setting for Jansch at his most spiritual and rapturous. As always, his elegant simplicity speaks volumes, and here Jansch offers a mixture of material from his then-current album, When The Circus Comes To Town, alongside exactly what you would want to hear from Jansch in performance: Blackwaterside, Strolling Down The Highway and a light-as-a-feather rendition of an RC favourite, Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning.
There are a batch of Bert Jansch albums being rereleased this summer, and this is one of the most intriguing. Recorded in 1995 as an “authorised bootleg”, it’s a reminder of his year-long Wednesday-night solo residency at this tiny London venue (which has now relocated from its original Denmark Street home). This was a difficult period for Jansch.
During Bert Jansch's five-decade career, he released records where nothing seemed out of place. The folk singer, who died in 2011, often wrestled with the torment of young lovers and restless souls in his lyrics, but those worries came in near-perfect packages, in which the blues and intercontinental folk, jazz, and pop moved together with riverine fluidity. When a New Weird America contingent led by Devendra Banhart and Noah Georgeson worked to revive his career with the The Black Swan LP in 2006, it made sense; he and his band, Pentangle, were godheads for pockets of that scene.
Live at the 12 Bar is an “authorized” bootleg of a gig Bert Jansch gave in London back in 1995. Someone had the foresight to hit the “record” button on a DAT machine that night, so this isn’t exactly the most professional-sounding recording there is. Bumps against the microphone stands make their way through the mixing desk and Jansch’s voice sometimes comes across distorted.
The late Bert Jansch was a master of the acoustic guitar, a Scotsman renowned within the British folk scene of the 1960s, a founding member of legendary group Pentangle, and a notable influence on Jimmy Page, Neil Young, Donovan and many others. Live At The 12 Bar is a neglected recording from 1995 that showcases Jansch’s strengths as a singer, instrumentalist and songwriter. This intimate solo LP features songs from studio album When The Circus Comes To Town, including an ode to slain revolutionary singer Victor Jara entitled “Let Me Sing” and other haunting originals like “Walk Quietly By” and “Just A Dream.” Jansch’s precise picking drives these performances and o sets his pinched, dry vocal style.
Bert Jansch — Live at the 12 Bar (Earth Recordings)Until development forced the nightspot’s relocation this year, the 12 Bar Club sat on Denmark Street, home to an abundance of London’s guitar shops. Bert Jansch stayed a folkie throughout his life, but a set recorded on the street level of Denmark captures his figurative role the larger pop world quite nicely. As rock guitarists ascended to godhead in the late 1960s, Jansch’s style informed lots of the players that were trading up their guitars for ever nicer models, and trading flats for manor houses.
Since early-2014 Earth Recordings has followed a mixture of directions in establishing itself as a more boutique-shaped London answer to the likes of Light In The Attic, Rhino Handmade and Omnivore; shifting between a bare-bones reissue of Jackson C. Frank’s eponymous 1965 LP, a reupholstering of the sole album from Antipodean acid-folker Howard Eynon and a lavish multi-artist tribute to Shirley Collins with Shirley Inspired. With a vinyl-driven series rounding-up rarities from early-Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble set to drop later this year, the label’s lateral modus operandi in honouring revered yet sometimes misplaced artists seems to cementing into something quite special.