John Renbourn – The Hermit

More Pentangle

More British Folk Rock

  • Renbourn’s 1976 solo album makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • These British sides have the vintage analog sound we love – rich and natural, with plenty of Tubey Magic and studio space
  • Renbourn’s brilliant guitar stylings illustrate this collection of originals, classics, and variations with consummate skill and artistry
  • “John Renbourn’s first post-Pentangle (or nearly post-Pentangle) solo album… is one of his most beautiful recordings, and also among his most spare guitar instrumentals The mood of much – though not all – of Hermit is one of serious introspection, as Renbourn stays generally within a classical guitar mode.”

*NOTE: A mark makes 5 very light to light ticks at the end of track 1, The Hermit.

This vintage UK Transatlantic pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Renbourn, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of The Hermit have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1976
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful originals.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

John Renbourn on The Hermit

During the time Pentangle was on the road I got a bit out of touch with the way things were developing on the acoustic guitar front. When the band stopped touring l discovered there had been quite some goings on. There were a lot of young players out there in the world coming up with good stuff on the fingerstyle steel-string guitar and it was nice to think that the approach of British players had been an influence.

By that time l had moved out into the country and I consciously set about working on guitar arrangements that might make a further contribution. Pieces that relied less on improvisation and which could be notated and passed on intact.

l borrowed ideas from various instruments, the lute, keyboard, and irish harp, and made up others which I suppose took ideas that went back to ‘Lady Nothynges Toye Puffe’ a stage further. John James, another old Transatlantic man, joined me on duets as did Dominique Trepeau, a representative for the Paris delegation.


Side One

The Hermit
John’s Tune
Little Alice
Old Mac Bladgitt
Faro’s Rag
Caroline’s Tune

Side Two

Three Pieces By O’Carolan

The Lamentation Of Owen Roe O’Neill
Lord Inchiquin
Mrs. Power (O’Carolan’s Concerto)

The Princess And The Puddings
Pavanna (Anna Bannana)
A Toye
Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home

AMG  Review

John Renbourn’s first post-Pentangle (or nearly post-Pentangle) solo album, joined briefly by fellow guitarist Dominique Trepeau and featuring further contributions by John James, is one of his most beautiful recordings, and also among his most spare guitar instrumentals. Some of the material is drawn from lute and harp sources, and it is ear-opening to hear some of the more familiar pieces among the latter (such as “O’Carolan’s Concerto”) transcribed for guitar, but Renbourn isn’t above adapting themes from television commercials, either. The mood of much — though not all — of Hermit is one of serious introspection, as Renbourn stays generally within a classical guitar mode.

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