A Man I'd Rather Be, Pt. 2 is the fourth retrospective set by Earth Records. While earlier sets focused on Jansch's neglected later recordings, Pt. 2 contains his first four albums: 1965's Bert Jansch and It Don't Bother Me, as well as 1966's Bert & John (Renbourn) and Jack Orion. Pentangle, the band that Jansch and Renbourn assembled with vocalist Jacqui McShee, bassist Danny Thompson, and drummer Terry Cox, began playing in the aftermath of these releases. The four albums here, Nicola, Birthday Blues, Rosemary Lane, and Moonshine, were issued before, during, and after Pentangle's run.
1967's Nicola was released after the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but recorded in March; it stands in sharp contrast to Jansch's stark earlier offerings. It hosts only two traditional songs amid a number of Jansch originals. Though it begins with only his voice and a 12-string on "Go Your Way My Love," there are five cuts lavishly adorned in strings, reeds, and winds by Dave "Dee" Palmer -- who was deeply under the sway of the production on the Fab Four's "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields." On "A Little Sweet Sunshine," one can also hear the influence of Donovan and David Axelrod simultaneously with its brass, rock drums, and weave of electric and acoustic guitars. 1969's Birthday Blues is less radical, a direct extension of the music Pentangle was pursuing. (After all, the rhythm section is Thompson and Cox with Ray Warleigh on sax and flute.) Pt. 2's range of material -- and its far less elegant production from Shel Talmy -- is nothing but gold, including the modal blues of "Promised Land" and the syncopated, raga-like "A Woman Like You" (that Jansch later re-recorded for 1990's Sketches). 1971's Rosemary Lane is a return to solo Jansch. With Pentangle in a state of flux, this recording, one of the guitarist's very best, is a quiet, reflective shelter from the storm containing classics such as his arrangement of the traditional title track, "Reynardine," and "Sylvie." It also contains a striking read of Arcangelo Corelli's 1710 composition "Sarabanda." Just after Pentangle's demise -- a month later, to be precise -- Jansch recorded and released 1973's Moonshine, with Thompson and Tony Visconti on bass, Ralph McTell on harmonica, a host of ex-Gong and Brian Auger personnel, Fairport Convention's Dave Mattacks, and fiddler Aly Bain. While it remains steeped in acoustic-electric British folk -- there are four traditional numbers including the set highlights "Yarrow" and "Two Corbies." It also reflects the birth of the singer/songwriter generation with "Oh My Father," his readings of Dave Goulder's "The January Man," and a radical revisit to Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (with Mary Visconti on backing vocals). This volume charts Jansch's development as a songwriter as well as an interpreter who remains devoted to his roots while restlessly expanding the reach of his oeuvre This music has aged exceptionally well. A Man I'd Rather Be, Pt. 2 also comes complete with a fine set of new liners by Mojo magazine's Dave Henderson and unseen photos.