This is an honest-to-goodness Demo Disc. When for a (thankfully) brief time back in the ’70s I was selling audio equipment, the song “Pentangling” was a favorite demo cut to play in the store. The sound of the string bass and snare drum are amazingly natural; I don’t know of any other pop album from the era that presents the vibrant timbre of those two instruments better.
The Transatlantic British originals can be quite good as well, but are very tough to come by in good condition these days, and pricey when you find them. This record easily qualifies for our Top 100 List, it’s that good (but unfortunately too rare to make the cut).
The Best Sides
The true foundation of the music is provided by two legendary guitar heavyweights, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. With Jacqui McShee’s almost unbearably sweet vocals soaring above them, this album presents the classic lineup at its best, with superior sonics to boot.
The unprocessed folky sound found throughout the album has its audiophile credentials fully in order, especially in the area of guitar harmonics, as well as drums that sound like real drums actually sound. (How many of the ’70s rock albums in our Top 100 have that natural drum sound? Not many when you stop to think about it.)
What to Listen For (WTLF)
The guitars are close-miked and very dynamic, with a tendency to be slightly dry. Immediacy is what they were after and immediacy is what they got — on the best copies, the ones with little to no smear and the richness to keep the tonality balanced.
Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky sweet and Tubey Magical, this is the sound we love here at Better Records.
We bash the crap sound found on the recordings of Diana Krall, Patricia Barber and their ilk because we’ve heard records like this and know that THIS is how good a female vocal recording can be. There is a difference, and this record will make that difference clear to anyone who takes the time to play it.
Why isn’t an amazing sounding recording of such high quality music on our Top 100 Rock and Pop list? Simple — we can’t find more than one good copy every two or three years, which means that the link you would see in the Top 100 section would link to no active copies for years at a time.
There are scores of records we’ve played over the years that deserve to be on the list, if only we could find them.
Note that the domestic copies of the album on Reprise can be very good sounding, but the imports such as this one are in an entirely different sonic league.
Bert’s The Man
Bert Jansch is considered to be one of the greatest acoustic folk guitarists who ever lived. Word has it that he strongly influenced the playing of Jimmy Page, who may in fact have stolen some of Jansch’s best licks. We will leave that controversy for others to sort out; stolen or not, the licks are plenty hot for those of you who like your acoustic guitars complex and folky (as opposed to, say, Cat Stevens’s guitars, which tend to be simple and poppy, not that we love them any the less for it).
Musicians and Instruments
Terry Cox – Drums, percussion
Bert Jansch – Guitar, vocals
Jacqui Mcshee – Vocals
John Renbourn – Guitar, vocals
Danny Thompson – Bass