Sunday, January 11, 2004

Bert Jansch and Neil Young

Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch, the acclaimed Scottish guitarist with Pentangle, has just completed the 1st Leg of Neil Young's "Twisted Road" Concert Tour. Reviews have been warmly received.

From Telegram: Jansch happy to be touring By Richard Duckett:
When the legendary Scottish-born folk singer-songwriter and guitarist Bert Jansch got a call asking if he was interested in opening for a legend known as Neil Young on his solo “Twisted Road Tour” beginning this week, it came “out of the blue.”

He had met Young two years ago at an event, where Young unexpectedly brought him out to play, “which was a bit of a shock.” Now, there was the invitation. “Do you fancy doing it? ” Jansch’s manager asked.

The answer was emphatic. All of the above are good things to have happen to Jansch, who over a long and varied career may best be known as a co-founder of the folk-based group Pentangle.

At 66, Jansch still relishes the prospect of performing. “It’s the only thing I know how to do,” he said.

From interview with Bert Jansch in American Songwriter by Davis Inman:
How did you first meet Neil Young?

It all started through Devendra [Banhart]. I was over doing a few shows in 2006. Devendra asked me if I would play on a few gigs he had lined up, which also included The Bridge School Benefit. That’s how I met all of Devendra’s retinue and everything. [laughs] We did some great shows. And then we went off to do The Bridge School and I was part of Devendra’s band at the time. Neil actually surprised me by asking me to play a number with him. He said it was derivative of me. When we did it, it was the first number of the day. I had five minutes to learn it.

What song was it?

“Ambulance Blues.” He said it was derivative of me, but I don’t think it’s got anything at all to do with it. It’s a very different song. Anyway, that’s how we got involved.

How has your presence on the tour—and style of playing—affected Neil?

Well, the show he’s playing at the moment is fantastic. Although—as much musicians are—he doesn’t always come off the stage thinking, “Oh, that was wonderful.” But the actual music that I hear is incredible. And it’s all just him. He starts acoustically and goes through quite a few old numbers and then he picks up electric and when he does it certainly explodes. It’s more that he’s influencing me than the other way around.

UPDATE 3/23/10: Bert Jansch and Neil Young 201 Twisted Road Tour Together Announced.

From Scotland on Sunday article by Aidan Smith on the highly influential guitarist Bert Jansch:

"Neil Young says Jansch did for the acoustic guitar what Jimi Hendrix did for the electric guitar. And one thing Jimmy Page will admit is that he was 'absolutely obsessed' with Jansch when his self-titled debut was released in 1965."

Bert Jansch performed in the band Pentangle which played the Isle of Wight Festival twice with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.

Bert Jansch

A fairly substantive profile of influential guitar legend Bert Jansch -- who will open for Neil Young's upcoming tour -- in today's Times Union (Albany NY) by MICHAEL ECK.
The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr -- who collaborated with Jansch on his 2000 release "Crimson Moon" -- credits his hero with an even wider swath of influence.

"He completely reinvented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequalled today. Without Bert Jansch, rock music as it developed in the '60s and '70s would have been very different. You hear him in Nick Drake, Pete Townshend, Donovan, The Beatles, Jimmy Page and Neil Young. There are people playing guitar who don't even realize they've been influenced by him one step removed."

Jansch's debut album influenced Young lyrically as well as sonically, with Jansch's harrowing "Needle of Death," about a friend's overdose, creating an obvious template for Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done" -- which followed Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten's downward spiral into heroin addiction.

Jansch's guitar style is marked by ringing open tunings, which allow the player to create rich, droning harmonies as well as complex chord voicings that eschew major or minor tonalities in favor of modal characters that float between the two.

Young similarly explores a shadowland of sound in his acoustic work, which is often as gentle as his electric playing is fierce.

Here's some more on tour opener the legendary Bert Jansch.

Here's what Neil Young said about Jansch in an interview Guitare & Claviers Magazine (French guitar magazine) in April 1992:
Q : Of all the guitarists you know, who has made the biggest impression on you?

NEIL: Bert Jansch (Pentangle guitarist) is the best acoustic guitarist ; he's my favourite anyway. For electric guitar, I'd say Jimi Hendrix.

But as for acoustic guitar, Bert Jansch is on the same level as Jimi. That first record of his is epic. It came from England, and I was especially taken by The Needle of Death, such a beautiful and angry song. That guy was so good... And years later, on On the Beach, I wrote the melody of Ambulance Blues by styling the guitar part completely on Needle of Death. I wasn't even aware of it, and someone else drew my attention to it. I'd met him in England in the early 70s, with Pentangle, but I this huge limousine and all that shit and they had a strange attitude with me, considering me as one of those bonehead superstars.

An excellent overview on Bert Jansch on YouTube:

The first part of Acoustic Routes, the Bert Jansch documentary from 1992. Sorry about the poor video quality: the video has been ripped straight from VHS.

The first part features Billy Connolly, Hamish Imlach, Archie Fisher and Anne Briggs. Bert talks about his first album, his early influences, Anne Briggs, Jimmy Page et cetera.


Bert Jansch - Strolling Down the Highway
Anne Briggs - Go Your Way
Anne Briggs - Blackwater Side
Hamish Imlach & Archie Fisher - Solid Gone

"Ambulance Blues" - Folk legend Bert Jansch and Neil Young. Live at Bridge School Benefit 2006

Compare and contrast from Beautiful And Angry | For The Sake Of The Song: "I was especially taken by Needle Of Death, such a beautiful and angry song. That guy was so good… And years later, on On The Beach, I wrote the melody of Ambulance Blues by styling the guitar part completely on Needle Of Death. I wasn’t even aware of it, and someone else drew my attention to it."

A note from Jeff:
Maybe you know this already, but back in the old days of that old neil young listserv, mid 90's I guess, Neil released "Lucky Thirteen".

I pointed out then, that the title came from an old Bert Jansch record. Easy to see now with WIKIPEDIA but back then I remember going to a used record store in the SF Bay Area and was browsing the Bert Jansch records because Neil had mentioned him. I didn't buy one. Then, a year later, Neil came out with his album.

Anyway, might be interesting to mention this on your site if you want to add another Neil/Bert connection.


Thanks Jeff!

Also, see Neil Young News: Pegi Young Goes On Tour with Bert Jansch.

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