Bert Jansch - Bert Jansch (1965), 5/10

Bert Jansch’s self-titled debut is notable for his exhibition of virtuosity on the acoustic guitar with the sentimentality of sixties folk music. The songwriting ranges from compelling to trite but more often draws on worthwhile inspiration. Jansch’s inexperience in composition can be heard with songs like “Do You Hear Me Now?” and some of the unnecessary instrumental tracks that feel forced in as filler rather than as a contributing part of the record’s themes. The vocals are severely limited by his technical limitations as well, but his mastery of his instrument is clear and consistent. It is apparent on instrumental tracks like “Finches” but equally so on emotionally charged songs like “Veronica” that display Bert’s talent for communicating sincere passion through the guitar, especially through his use of dynamics and technical finesse. The biggest hit of the record that sounds entirely commonplace for this time “Needle of Death” is nothing outstanding considering the other material here, the real highlights are “Veronica”, “Running from Home” and the exceptionally charged instrumental closer “Angie”. This phenomenon of virtuosity overcoming lackluster lyricism and thematic mediocrity pervades the experience in a noticeable way, but the resulting product is surprisingly engaging and charming. Jansch gets away with pulling off some songs that end up presenting better than they should, yet some falter too substantially to redeem themselves. The album’s two modes of operation tend to split listeners between those who lean into Bert’s standard approach to folk tunes and those who relish in his technical talents but the record is notable for its combination of these two characteristics.