More British Folk Rock
- Boasting INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first, this vintage UK import pressing had close to the BEST sound we have heard for Pentangle’s shockingly well-recorded music
- 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 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
- The best material from Pentangle’s amazing first six albums, with sound that’s full of British Analog Tubey Magic that no modern record can begin to reproduce
- Not many compilation albums offer top quality sound, but this one does, and these are some others
- If you’re a Pentangle fan, this compilation has to be considered a Must Own from 1973.
- The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
This album presents the classic 1969 lineup at its best, with superior sonics to boot.
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 the best sides of Pentangling have to offer is not hard to hear
- 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 in 1973
- 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
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
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 qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
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).
What We’re Listening For on Pentangling
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
A Must Own Pop Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Pop Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Musicians / Instruments
- Terry Cox – Drums, percussion
- Bert Jansch – Guitar, vocals
- Jacqui Mcshee – Vocals
- John Renbourn – Guitar, sitar, vocals
- Danny Thompson – Bass
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 other 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 of these wonderful recordings.
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.
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Rock Collection.
I’ve Got a Feeling
When I Get Home
Rain and Snow
Lyke Wake Dirge
The Trees They Do Grow High
A Maid That’s Deep in Love
Once I Had a Sweetheart
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.”