Friday, 16 March 2018

"The Albums" by PENTANGLE (October 2017 Cherry Red Records 6-Album/7CD Box Set - Nick Watson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Strange Treasures Passed Me By..."

I'm struck with a thought as I wade through this boatload of musical brilliance - why aren't PENTANGLE monster - I mean absolutely friggin huge?

Celebrating 50 years since their formation in 1967 - Cherry Red's "The Albums" Box Set is a gorgeous thing to have and hold for sure. Superlative brick block presentation with Mini LP Repro sleeves for all six titles, best-ever sound (a new audio source for 1972’s magical "Solomon's Seal") and extras galore (22 Previously Unreleased). Chronologically you get five albums (1968 to 1972) from their initial productive blitz at the UK’s home for all things Folk and weird Transatlantic Records - along with their final on Reprise Records – a supposed comeback that cruelly turned out to be a false new dawn before the horrid and acrimonious spilt in the spring of 1973 (drunken phonecalls ahoy). Alongside all that reissue sexiness is a 20,000-word essay by MICK HOUGHTON (long-time associate with the band and Bert Jansch) in a beautifully laid out 88-page book (concert tickets, UK and US trade adverts and flyers etc). "The Albums" also includes a COLIN HARPER month-by-month band history timeline (worrying amounts of details and tour dates), NICK WATSON Remasters that breath new life into these largely Acoustic songs and a quantity of repro’d memorabilia that would make Bear Family of Germany twitchy in the lederhosen area.

But more than that - as you re-visit record after record here - you're filled with admiration at their originality – musical soundscapes and philosophical themes that still have a lingering influence in Folk-Rock, Acid-Folk, Acoustic Blues and even World Music. And all of it achieved without ever really getting the blue-plaque credit Pentangle so obviously deserve. There's a huge amount of info to slaver over, so let's get to those Reflections and Baskets of Light...

UK released Friday, 6 October 2017 (13 October 2017 in the USA) - "The Albums" by PENTANGLE on Cherry Red Records CRCDBOX41 (Barcode 5013929104105) is a 6-Album/7-Disc Box Set with an Extensive 88-Page Booklet, 22 Previously Unreleased Tracks and Mini LP Repro Artwork Card Sleeves. It plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "The Pentangle" 1968 Debut Album (72:12 minutes):
1. Let No Man Steal Away Your Thyme [Side 1]
2. Bells
3. Hear My Call
4. Pentangling
5. Mirage [Side 2]
6. Way Behind The Sun
7. Bruton Town
8. Waltz
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut album "The Pentangle" - released May 1968 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 162 and November 1968 in the USA on Reprise Records RS 6315.

9. Koan (Take 2)
10. The Wheel
11. The Casbah
12. Bruton Town (Take 3)
13. Hear My Call (Alternate Take)
14. Way Behind The Sun (Alternate Take)
15. Way Behind The Sun (Instrumental)
Tracks 9 to 15 are outtakes from the 1968 sessions and first appeared on the 2001 CD Reissue of "The Pentangle" on Castle Music CMRCD 131
16. Bruton Town (Take 5) - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED Session Outtake
17. Koan (Take 1) - 1968 Session outtake first appeared on the December 2007 4CD Box Set "The Time Has Come 1967-1973" on Castle Music CMXBX664
18. Travellin' Song - a non-album UK 7" single A-side released May 1968 on Big T Records BIG T 109 (the album track "Mirage" was the B-side)
19. Poison
20. I've Got A Feeling
21. Market Song
Tracks 19 to 21 are from their first sessions in August 1967 - "Poison" was issued on the 2007 Box Set "The Time Has Come 1967-1973" - the other two are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED. A re-recording of "Market Song" opens the "Sweet Child" double-album

Disc 2 "Sweet Child" 1968 Double Album:
CD1 (76:20 minutes):
1. Market Song [Side 1]
2. No More My Lord
3. Turn Your Money Green
4. Haitian Fight Song
5. A Woman Like You
6. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
7. Three Dances - Brentzel Gay/La Rotta/The Earle Of Salisbury [Side 2]
8. Watch The Stars
9. So Early In The Spring
10. No Exit
11. The Time Has Come
12. Bruton Town
Tracks 1 to 12 are Record 1 of 2 for "Sweet Child" - released November 1968 in the UK on Transatlantic TRA 170 and February 1969 in the USA on Reprise 2RS 6334. Record 1 was recorded 29 June 1968 LIVE at the Royal Festival Hall in London with "Bruton Town" being the only song from their past catalogue (Record 2 was studio recordings). It didn't chart in either the UK or USA.

13. Hear My Call
14. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
15. Bells
16. Travellin' Song
17. Waltz
18. Way Behind The Sun
19. John Donne Song
Tracks 13 to 19 were recorded at the same gig as Disc 1 - first appeared on the 2001 2CD Reissue of "Sweet Child" on Castle Music CMDDD 132

CD2 (78:04 minutes):
1. Sweet Child [Side 3]
2. I Loved A Lass
3. Three Part Thing
4. Sovay
5. In Time
6. In Your Mind [Side 4]
7. I've Got A Feeling
8. The Trees They Do Grow High
9. Moon Dog
10. Hole In The Coal
Tracks 1 to 10 are Record 2 of 2 for "Cruel Sister" (see CD1). The Studio set was recorded August 1968 with Shel Talmy of The Who fame producing.

11. Hole In The Coal (Alternate Take)
12. The Trees They Do Grow High (Alternate Take)
13. Haitian Fight Song (Studio Take)
14. In Time (Alternate Take)
Tracks 11 to 14 are session outtakes and first appeared on the 2001 2CD Reissue of "Sweet Child" on Castle Music CMDDD 132
15. A Woman Like You
16. I've Got A Woman
17. I Am Lonely
Tracks 15 to 17 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED Mixes from the Bert Jansch January 1969 solo LP "Birthday Blues" on Transatlantic TRA 179
18. Poison
19. Blues
Tracks 18 and 19 are the released versions from the Bert Jansch January 1969 solo LP "Birthday Blues" - "Poison" features DUFFY POWER on Harmonica
20. Sally Go Round The Roses (Alternate Take No. 2)
Track 20 is a session outtake from the 1969 "Basket Of Light" album and first appeared on the July 2001 CD Reissue for that record on Castle Music CMRCD207. Chronologically it's out of order here - but it appears on this CD and not Disc 3 for space reasons only.
21. Moon Dog (Full Band Version) - PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED. Terry Cox performs the song Solo on the released double-album - here the Full Band joins him (liner notes advise that this is an 'imperfect tape source')

Disc 3 "Basket Of Light" 1969 Album (77:06 minutes):
1. Light Flight [Side 1]
2. Once I Had A Sweetheart
3. Springtime Promises
4. Lyke Wake Dirgs
5. Train Song
6. Hunting Song [Side 2]
7. Sally Go Round The Roses
8. The Cuckoo
9. House Carpenter
Tracks 1 to 9 are their third album "Basket Of Light" - released November 1969 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 205 and December 1969 in the USA on Reprise RS 6372. Produced by SHEL TALMY - it peaked at No. 5 on the UK LP charts (didn't chart USA)

10. Sally Go Round The Roses  (Alternate Take No. 1) - first appeared on the July 2001 CD Reissue for that record on Castle Music CMRCD207
11. Cold Mountain - non-album B-side to the October 1969 UK 7" single for "Light Flight (Theme for "Take Three Girls") on Big Tree BIG 128
12. I Saw An Angel - non-album B-side to the May 1969 UK 7" single for "Once I Had A Sweetheart" on Big Tree BIG 124 (Stereo)
13. House Carpenter (Live)
14. Light Flight (Live)
15. Pentangling (Live)
Tracks 13 to 15 recorded March/April 1970 on UK tour - "Pentangling (Live)" released on the December 2007 4CD Box Set "The Time Has Come 1967-1973" on Castle Music CMXBX664 - "House Carpenter (Live)" and "Light Flight (Live)" are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 4 "Cruel Sister" 1969 Album (72:48 minutes):
1. A Maid That's Deep In Love [Side 1]
2. When I Was In My Prime
3. Lord Franklin
4. Cruel Sister
5. Jack Orion [Side 2]
Tracks 1 to 5 are their fourth album "Cruel Sister" - released November 1970 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 228 and February 1971 in the USA on Reprise Records RS 6430. Produced by BILL LEADER - it peaked at No. 51 in the UK (didn't chart USA)

6. Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Take 1)
7. Rain & Snow (Take 2)
8. Omie wise (Take 2)
9. John's Song [alias "So Clear"] (Take 7)
10. Reflection (Olympic Studios, Take 1)
11. When I Get Home (Alternate Vocal)
Tracks 6 to 11 are all March 1971 session outtakes for the "Reflection" album - all PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 5 "Reflection" 1971 Album (75:54 minutes):
1. Wedding Dress [Side 1]
2. Omie Wise
3. Will The Circle Be Unbroken?
4. When I Get Home
5. Rain & Snow
6. Helping Hand [Side 2]
7. So Clear
8. Reflection
Tracks 1 to 8 are their fifth album "Reflection" - released October 1971 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 240 and December 1971 in the USA on Reprise Records RS 6463. Produced by BILL LEADER - it didn't chart in either country

9. Shake Shake Mama
10. Kokomo Blues
11. Faro Annie
12. Back On The Road Again
Tracks 9 to 12 are from the John Renbourn solo album "Faro Annie" (featuring the John, Danny and Terry trio from Pentangle) released January 1972 in the UK on Transatlantic TRA 247.
13. Will The Circle Be Unbroken? (Alternate Vocal)
14. Reflection (Command Studios, Take 1)
15. John's Song [alias "So Clear"] (Take 5 with Fuzz Guitar)
16. Wondrous Love
Tracks 13 to 16 are outtakes from the "Reflection" album sessions recorded March 1971 and are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 6 "Solomon's Seal" 1972 Album (49:17 minutes):
1. Sally Free And Easy [Side 1]
2. The Cherry Tree Carol
3. The Snows
4. High Germany
5. People On The Highway
6. Willy O'Winsbury [Side 2]
7. No Love Is Sorrow
8. Jump, Baby, Jump
9. Lady Of Carlisle
Tracks 1 to 9 are their sixth album "Solomon's Seal" - released September 1972 in the UK on Reprise Records K 44197 and October 1972 in the USA on Reprise Records MS 2100. Produced by PENTANGLE - it didn't chart in either country. The 2003 Castle Music CD reissued used a tape provided by John Renbourn (the originals were thought to be lost) - this issue uses a better alternate source for this 2017 Remaster

10. When I Get Home (Live)
11. She Moved Through The Fair (Live)
12. Train Song (Live)
Tracks 10 to 12 are from an audience tape recorded November 1972. Selected by the band for this release - they're PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

JACQUI McSHEE – Lead Vocals
BERT JANSCH – Lead Vocals and Guitars
JOHN RENBOURN – Lead and Backing Vocals and Guitars
TERRY COX – Drums and Percussion

A huge drawn out double-bass note eases in the Traditional "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" - the Side 1 opener for their groundbreaking debut "The Pentangle" - and as Reprise Records was want to tell its sceptical US public - " is necessary to talk of "fusions of traditional folk forms"..." First up the audio is fantastic - the instrumental "Bells" sounding positively cathedral-like. The cover of The Staple Singers secular classic "Hear My Call" is given that Pentangle shuffle (no voices sounding). But little prepared May 1968 listeners for the sneakily clever twister "Pentangling" - seven minutes of go-go 60ts Folk with Jacqui McShee's vocals lovely and soothing at first only to be replaced with acoustic-guitar battles, a Double Bass solo and a Bert Jansch counter vocal that underpins the whole mad brilliant thing. Wow - is it any wonder the 'Ling' became such a concert showstopper. Other highlights include the Trad Blues of "Way Behind The Sun" - a song associated with Barbara Dane and her 1964 US Folkways album "Sings The Blues With 6 & 12-String Guitar" (The Byrds recorded a version during the "Sweethearts Of The Rodeo" sessions in 1968). Amazing audio too on the finisher instrumental "Waltz" which is more Guitars-Go-Dancing than Strauss with Thompson's Double Bass solo likely to kick her your speaker's teeth in. Of the Disc 1 Bonus Material my raves are the duo of "The Wheel" and "The Casbah" which sound like Jimmy Page goofing off on an Acoustic Guitar during the recordings of Roy Harper's 1971 Harvest masterpiece "Stormcock". The unreleased Take 5 of "Bruton Town" is getting close to the released version and is beautifully rendered here - while the alarmingly poppy "I've Got A Feeling" and "Market Song" make their debut here (what a blast). 

Released only months after the truly innovative opening salvo - the double "Sweet Child" offered more of the same - and yes - more. One LP was live (all songs new except "Bruton Town") and the other studio and it had a Pentagram on the gatefold sleeve. Virtually unrecognisable from their initial 1967 session - "Market Town" opens proceedings in slowed-down mellow mode. Things really start to cook with "No More My Lord" - Jacqui confident and strong as she belts out the secular cry for help. Furey Lewis' "Turn Your Money Green" sounds like Fred Neil and Band live in England whilst the two Mingus covers "Haitian Fight Song" and "Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat" allow Thompson to show off some serious Jazz swing chops. They give an early outing to Anne Briggs on her "The Time Has Come" - a smart choice you wished had produced more interest in her CBS Records album of the same name. Shel Talmy of Who fame produced the Studio LP that opens with the lovely title track "Sweet Child" - Bert and Jacqui sharing vocals. The three Traditional covers "I Loved A Lass", "Sovoy" and "The Trees They Do Grow High" are all transformed into Acid Folk-Rock - each sounding amazing on this new Remaster. I'm loving the Previously Unreleased Mix of "A Woman Like You" - a Jansch "Birthday Blues" solo album track that features the 'trio' - him, Thompson and Cox. Sporting gorgeous audio too is "I've Got A Woman" which comes without Ray Warleigh's saxophone solo that made the released version. And another prize is surely the solo 'Acoustic Guitar and Voice Only' take on "I Am Lonely" - as lovely as you're ever likely to hear English Folk be played. 

"Basket Of Light" would become their most commercially successful album (No.5 in the UK) and when you hear the Jacqui lead ""Once I Had A Sweetheart" and the Jansch lead "Spring Time Promises" - joyful Folk-Rock with that Pentangle rhythm section giving the Acoustic Guitar duelling a swing that's hard to resist – you can hear why the public dug it. You could say the songs are all expanded Acoustic workouts, but the number of musical ideas for instance going on in the 4:47 minutes of "Train Song" is utterly brilliant - Jacqui giving it some bah-bah vocals while Bert sings about burning loins. Church-like Name Of The Rose vocals open the gorgeous ye-olde-England "Lyke Wake Dirg" - the combined voices and quiet Terry Cox hand drum giving the religious mood a subtle bottom end. Lyrics from the brilliant "Light Flight" title this review.

The whole 1971 "Reflections" album takes their sound forward - banjos, sitars, violins and those ever-present Danny Thompson Bass lines - a very accomplished album. "...Prettiest thing you've ever seen..." Jacqui sings on "Wedding Dress". There are the traditional tales of woe and longing - promises of marriage blight the poor gal in "Ornie Wise" while Indian Sitar rhythms make things perkier for the lass with cheeks like a red rose in "Rain And Snow" - a girl who isn't going to be treated this way.

And while the first four LPs will be well-worn territory for fans - how good is it hear "Solomon's Seal" sound this good. Apparently the tale goes that the masters have been missing for decades and in a story that I want to be true - when asked to help with the 2003 Castle Music CD reissue Renbourn only went and found a tape box at home propping up a table somewhere. Well, although they're coy as to what they've found, Cherry Red tells us they're using 'an alternate source' here and it sure sounds fabulous. Of the 9 tracks - five were Traditional Song covers with Cyril Tawney's "Sally Free And Easy" being the sixth. "People On The Highway", "No Love Is Sorrow" and "Jump, Baby, Jump" are band compositions that will delight lovers of Sitar acid-based folk. Jacqui and Bert alternate lead vocals (Jacqui on "The Cherry Tree Carol" while Bert handles "The Snows" and so on) - but on the three band songs they share duet vocals - particularly effective on the gorgeous "People On The Highway". And it all ends on an audience tape recorded at the Guildford Civic Hall in November 1972 - three Previously Unreleased. And while the vocals are distant (the other instruments are good) - there is a lovely ballad vibe to the concert - their playing Joni Mitchell-sweet and you can so hear why the remaining members of the band would have chosen these songs to finish up this fab Box.

"...My own darling jewel sat smiling by me..."- Jacqui McShee sang wistfully on "Once I Had A Sweetheart". I'm going to be smiling and dipping into this amazing box set for years to come – I know it.

Well done to John Reed, Adam Velasco, Dave Timperley and all the other good eggs at Cherry Red Records for giving PENTANGLE the send off they deserved - inside of the 'whimpering' one they got in 1973.

"...Sit thee down and put them own..." we're advised in the 'receive-they-soul' "Lyke-Wake Dirge". Amen to that Acid-Folk advice baby...

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