Pentangle – ‘Reunions-Live & BBC Sessions 1982-2011’ (2023)

Uncategorized January 23, 2024

Pentangle – ‘Reunions-Live & BBC Sessions 1982-2011’ (2023)

Cherry Red Records complete their survey of legendary folk rock band Pentangle’s recordings with a new four disc box set.

‘Reunions-Live & BBC Sessions 1982-2011’ contains a disc of sessions done for BBC radio as well as one containing concerts in Thiene and Milan, Italy in 1982, with all the tracks being previously unreleased. The set is completed by two discs comprising ‘Finale: An Evening With Pentangle’ recorded at various UK venues in 2008 but not issued until 2016. The collection complements the 2017 seven disc ‘The Albums’ and 2022 six disc ‘Through The Ages: 1984-1995’ in amassing the complete works of Pentangle.

Disc one opens with six tracks from the BBC Cambridge Folk Festival of 1982. The band performed as a quartet composed of Jacqui McShee (vocals), Bert Jansch (guitar/vocals), John Renbourn (guitar/vocals) and Danny Thompson (double bass) as drummer Terry Cox was unable to perform due to injuries suffered in an auto accident. The band’s set was highlighted by a seven minute plus rendition of ‘Bruton Town’, a staple of Pentangle’s live repertoire, featuring lilting vocals, gorgeous harmonies and beautiful lead guitar line and solo, as well as a take on ‘If I Had A Lover’, a delicate acoustic piece with beautiful McShee vocals, which Jansch had recorded on his solo LP ‘Thirteen Down.’ Two songs from 1982’s BBC 2 ‘Six Fifty-Five Special’ are followed by the group’s 2007 performance at BBC Radio 2’s ‘Folk Awards’ in February 2007, the original quintet’s first appearance in twenty five years, where they played ‘Bruton Town’ and perennial favorite ‘Light Flight’ as well as being presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by Sir David Attenborough, which Cox and Jansch accepted for the group. Next up are four takes from a BBC Radio 6 Music ‘Freak Zone’ show in April 2008, Pentangle classics ‘Light Flight’ with its lilting McShee vocals and ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ featuring a memorable Thompson bass solo, among them. April and May 2008 appearances on BBC 2’s ‘Later With Jules…..’ are documented by four tracks, group staples ‘Light Flight’ and ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ being two. The disc closes with a hard hitting ‘Bruton Town’ taken from ‘Cambridge Folk Festival Highlights’, recorded in August 2011, only three months before Bert Jansch succumbed to lung cancer.

Disc two comprises seventeen tracks recorded at December 9 and 10, 1982 concerts at Thiene and Milan, Italy respectively. The four tracks from Thiene include a six minute take on ‘Bruton Town’ with a stunning guitar duet by Renbourn and Jansch, an excellent version of ‘Light Flight’ featuring a tasty bass solo by Thompson, and ‘Ragtime Tune’ a solo showcase for Renbourn on guitar. The tunes from Milan open with ‘A Bold Young Forever’ beautifully done a cappella by McShee. The heavy ‘Train Song’ showcases Renbourn and Jansch’s guitar work complemented by Cox’s drums and Thompson’s bass. ‘Blackwater Side’ is a brilliant duet by Thompson and Jansch, the former contributing a heavy bass line, supplemented by the ringing guitar and bluesy vocals of the latter. The band delivers melodic takes on title tracks ‘Sweet Child’, from the group’s second album, a 1968 double, as well as ‘Cruel Sister’, their fourth LP issued in 1970, both filled with vocal harmonies and ringing guitars. The disc’s highlight is the twelve minute take on the group’s namesake magnum opus ‘Pentangling’ with Thompson delivering two bass solos, Jansch and Renbourn offering chiming guitars and adding harmonies to McShee’s luscious lead vocals. Also of note are two melodic, electric tunes, the previously mentioned ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ and disc closer ‘Moonshine’ with its lovely guitar intro and tasty lead line, Jansch and Renbourn’s guitars melding into one to play the song out.

Discs three and four comprise ‘Finale: An Evening With Pentangle’ a double LP recorded at various UK venues in 2008, but which went unreleased until 2016. Disc three opens with the traditional folk tune ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’ led by Renbourn and Jansch’s guitars and McShee’s gorgeous vocals with the similar ‘Once I Had A Sweetheart’ appearing later on the disc. A beautiful take on the familiar ‘Light Flight’ is followed by the forelorn ‘Mirage’ with its lilting McShee vocals. The instrumental ‘In Time’ showcases Thompson’s bass work and Cox’s drum solo. The disc closes with ‘House Carpenter’ and ‘Cruel Sister’ both given Eastern influenced sounds thanks to the sitar work of Renbourn. Disc four’s first track ‘The Time Has Come’ with its gorgeous McShee vocals and lofting guitars lent its title to a four disc box set issued in 2007. Two of the group’s best known and loved tunes are included, ‘Bruton Town’ with its vocal harmonies and shimmering guitars and ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ with its jazzy vibe and tasty solos by Renbourn on electric guitar and Thompson on bass. The group does an outstanding cover of Charles Mingus’ ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ with Jansch and Renbourn giving soul to the instrumental while Thompson and Cox add gentle accents. McShee’s lilting vocals give the spiritual ‘No More My Lord’ a jazzy vibe. Jansch’s banjo highlights the light hearted ‘Wedding Dress’, McShee adding harmonies to Jansch’s lead vocal, just as she does on the Jansch sung ballad ‘Sally Free And Easy.’ An eight minute take on ‘Pentangling’ gives the band a chance to stretch out, the group easing into the tune before Cox’s drums pick up the pace. A tempo change leads to an extended solo by Thompson, before Jansch, Renbourn and McShee rejoin to play the song out in a relaxed, restrained manner. The album, disc, and box set close with the traditional folk tune ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’, McShee’s singing joined by a touch of slide guitar, a fittingly mellow closer with vocal harmonies and melodic instrumentation.

The four discs of ‘Reunions-Live & BBC Sessions 1982-2011’ come in cardboard mini-LP replica sleeves which tuck neatly into a clamshell box. The set comes with a lavishly illustrated 28 page full color booklet with complete track annotations and an essay by Mick Houghton. The collection, dedicated to Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, sounds wonderful thanks to the mastering job of Eroc at The Ranch. The set will appeal to folk rock and classic rock fans, and comes highly recommended.

Kevin Rathert

Pentangle – ‘Reunions-Live & BBC Sessions 1982-2011’ (Cherry Red Records, 2023)

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