Scotland's Bert Jansch has been a revered fixture on the British folk scene since the 1960s, with his rough and plaintive vocal style, no-nonsense writing approach, and most of all, his incredible acoustic guitar skills, which bring a jazz sensibility to his often modal and blues-based pieces. That he has never risen above cult status is one of life's little mysteries. This collection spans the early stages of his career, and includes a couple of his best original compositions, "It Don't Bother Me" and the harrowing heroin ballad "Needle of Death," as well as some well-chosen covers, including his take on Jackson C. Frank's "Blues Run the Game" and a near-definitive version of Davy Graham's classic instrumental "Angie." Jansch's commercial high watermark came with Pentangle, a folk/jazz quintet he formed with fellow guitar virtuoso John Renbourn at the close of the 1960s, and a single live track from the group is collected here, the moody and stirring "Bruton Town." Another highlight finds Renbourn joining Jansch for a wonderful twin acoustic guitar rendition of Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." There are several Jansch anthologies on the market, most of which contain pretty much the tracks you'll find here, so this works as well as any as an introduction. Castle's two-disc Dazzling Stranger might make the best choice, however, since it includes most of these cuts, plus a selection of his later work, as well.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett