Terry Cox - percussion, drums; Bert Jansch - guitar, banjo, vocals; Jacqui McShee - vocals; John Renbourn - guitar, sitar; Danny Thompson - bass
Hark, ye winsome lasses! 'Tis the gentle madrigal of Pentangle methinks thou dost - oh, forget it. A stadium full of Renaissance Faire jesters jacked on mead couldn't match the Elizabethan spectacle of Bert Jansch's guitar. Though others like Tull and Zeppelin dabbled in British folk with varying degrees of success, Jansch, with fellow folkie guitarist John Renbourn, cultivated the songs of his homeland as a full-time pursuit.
After a couple of solo records each and a collaboration, Jansch and Renbourn formed Pentangle to further explore their collective roots. Less studious musicians today think that playing two disparate musical styles badly at the same time (say, for example, rap and metal) makes for interesting and original material. The members of Pentangle found a slightly more convincing method by choosing textures from sources that were complimentary, though maybe not obviously so at the time. Traditional British and Celtic music were used as a starting point from which an impressive tapestry of jazz, classical, blues, and Eastern influences was woven.
The set here is virtually a survey of all those styles, sometimes within the same song - an approach that actually had more in common with popular psychedelic groups of the day than one might imagine. Opening gambit "Bruton Town" comes on all rumbly upright bass and avant-guitar shuffle before Jacqui McShee's lilting voice rides atop Jansch's parched roar in a single lyrical verse invoked by love and death (two themes which apparently stretch back as far as the 16th century). From there, strains of everything from Bach to Muddy Waters billow from the speakers like turf-fire smoke on a misty moor. There's even a Charles Mingus cover, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," propelled by more of Danny Thompson's fretless thumping.
With the addition of more electric instruments on later albums, Pentangle would stray further from its folk-music foundations; but in their prime they achieved the kind of sonic alchemy most bands dream of, gaining Jansch international notoriety amongst musicians for his majestic guitar playing. Tune in and hear the man Neil Young called the Jimi Hendrix of the acoustic guitar.