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The Reunions & BBC Sessions – Pentangle.–

Oct 22, 2023

From their beginnings in London’s Horseshoe Club in 1967, Pentangle blazed a trail from 1968 to 1973 of producing music laid back yet exciting, bristling with creative energy. Mixing folk, jazz, and blues with conviction and technical expertise they created a unique backlog of material.  Reforming in 1982, this 4CD box set of reunion shows commences with a blazing set at the Cambridge Folk Festival bristles with frenzied energy. The classic line up of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson, –minus drummer Terry Cox sidelined through illness – acquits itself with renewed vigor at the Cambridge Folk Festival, Jacqui singing impassionedly on ‘If I Had A Lover,’ while ‘Train Song’ and ‘Bruton Town’ glistened with dazzling fire.  With Terry Cox back in the percussion saddle, ‘Light Flight’ from the 2007 BBC Folk Awards and David Attenborough’s presenting Pentangle with a Lifetime Achievement Award remain highlights. A December 1982 Italian concert in Theine maintains the momentum with their collective driving energy compensating for dissatisfactory vocal mix. Here, ‘Bruton Town’ incorporates Indian raga scales within a flurry of excitement, and ‘People on the Highway’ grooves with a compulsive drive. ‘Light Flight’ kicks in with a faster more sprightly dash that suggests decades dissolving while the solo spots –John’s ‘Ragtime Tune’ has light-fingered immediacy, Bert reprises ‘Moonshine’ admirably, while Jacqui sings ‘A Bold Young Farmer’ with a devout sincerity. Ensemble cuts of ‘Sally Free and Easy,’ ‘Cruel Sister’ and a ragged ‘Train Song’ seal their legendary creativity. The last two discs are devoted to ‘Finale –An Evening with Pentangle’ culled from their 2008 UK tour and released by Topic Records in 2016. By now all interior disagreements had dwindled and the classic quintet rode out one last time. Here the playing is regal and suitably graceful with the interplay as sonically adept as usual but tempered with a mature sobriety. ‘Reunions & BBC Sessions’ neatly fills the space between the original band’s 1982 reunion and their return studio album 1984’s ‘Open the Door ‘by which time Mike Piggott had replaced John Renbourn and ‘Finale’ bookends the Pentangle story on cue prior to the tragic passing of both Bert Jansch in 2011 and John Renbourn in 2015. The essential freshness of the Pentangle sound and energy, coupled with their enthusiastic attack makes their repertoire resonate within this enticing treasure trove of aural delights.


John O’Regan.


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