The Pentangle – Pentangling

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side one and a superb Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy could not be beat
  • The unprocessed quality 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
  • The 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
  • The best material from Pentangle’s amazing first six albums, with sound that’s full of British Analog Tubey Magic
  • “Pentangling is filled to the brim with some of the finest recordings the British folk movement had to offer…”

This album presents the classic 1969 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.)

When I was selling audio equipment back in the ’70s this was one of our Demo Discs. The song Pentangling has beautifully recorded drums and string bass. The first track, I’ve Got A Feeling, is lovely as well.

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.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Here are some of the things we specifically listen for in a British Folk Rock record.

Our hottest Hot Stamper copies are simply doing more of these things better than the other copies we played in our shootout.

The best copies have:

  • Greater immediacy in the vocals (most copies are veiled and distant to some degree);
  • Natural tonal balance (many copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; those with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);
  • Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);
  • Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);
  • Tubey Magic, without which you might as well be playing a CD;
  • And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sometimes simple, sometimes complex and sophisticated recording.

Bert’s The Man

Bert Jansch is considered 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 less for it).

Musicians / Instruments

Terry Cox – Drums, percussion 
Bert Jansch – Guitar, vocals 
Jacqui Mcshee – Vocals 
John Renbourn – Guitar, sitar, vocals 
Danny Thompson – Bass

TRACK LISTING

Side One

I’ve Got a Feeling 
Helping Hand 
Pentangling 
When I Get Home

Side Two

Rain and Snow 
Lyke Wake Dirge 
The Trees They Do Grow High 
A Maid That’s Deep in Love 
Once I Had a Sweetheart

AMG Review

Pentangle are usually characterised as a folk-rock band. Danny Thompson preferred to describe the group as a “folk-jazz band.” John Renbourn also rejected the “folk-rock” categorisation, saying, “One of the worst things you can do to a folk song is inflict a rock beat on it. . . Most of the old songs that I have heard have their own internal rhythm. When we worked on those in the group, Terry Cox worked out his percussion patterns to match the patterns in the songs exactly. In that respect he was the opposite of a folk-rock drummer.” This approach to songs led to the use of unusual time signatures: “Market Song” from Sweet Child moves from 7/4 to 11/4 and 4/4 time, and “Light Flight” from Basket of Light includes sections in 5/8, 7/8 and 6/4.

Writing in The Times, Henry Raynor struggled to characterise their music: “It is not a pop group, not a folk group and not a jazz group, but what it attempts is music which is a synthesis of all these and other styles as well as interesting experiments in each of them individually.” Even Pentangle’s earliest work is characterised by that synthesis of styles. Songs such as “Bruton Town” and “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” from 1968’s The Pentangle include elements of folk, jazz, blues, and early music.

Pete Townshend described their sound as “fresh and innovative.” By the release of their fourth album, Cruel Sister, in 1970, Pentangle had moved closer to traditional folk music and begun using electric guitars. By this time, folk music had itself moved towards rock and the use of electrified instruments, so Cruel Sister invited comparison with such works as Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief and Steeleye Span’s Hark! The Village Wait. Pentangle is thus often described as one of the progenitors of electric folk.

In their final two albums, Pentangle returned to their folk-jazz roots, but by then the predominant musical taste had moved to electric folk-rock. Colin Harper commented that Pentangle’s “increasingly fragile music was on borrowed time and everyone knew it.”